Luke Pollard MP Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
This month’s ‘Lunch with Luke’ roundtable focused on the issues surrounding the re-opening of retail in Plymouth as we come out of the second lockdown, and how this will work with COVID-19 worries and precautions, and with people needing to do their Christmas shopping.
“Plymouth’s retail and hospitality industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. We can all do our bit by shopping local, supporting Plymouth businesses and shopping at off-peak times to ensure we do our part in slowing the spread of the virus.”
Luke wanted to meet with some key people involved in Plymouth’s businesses and the city centre to discuss how he can best support Plymouth’s business owners in recovering from the lockdown and the pandemic and staying alive.
He heard concerns that there are almost 2,000 businesses in Plymouth who are eligible for the government’s initial grant for those forced to close but who have not applied. The money to help is there but is not being accessed. Getting these grants would funnel money directly into the city and its economy and could provide a lifeline for many households.
If you think that this might be you or someone you know, Plymouth City Council have a good overview of the grant and how to apply on their website which you can access here.
More widely, it was agreed that one of the main stumbling blocks in keeping businesses in good stead was the uncertainty around when and how they could open. People in the scene have been pressing the government for enough notice for businesses to react; they are not simply able to switch on and off at the flick of a button but need enough time to plan and set up. Business owners are ready to react and deal with the challenges ahead but if they don’t know what the challenges are, then they can’t.
This is why Luke has been calling on the government for better communication and greater clarity and warning since the start of the pandemic. The difficulty of not being able to prepare has affected not only retail businesses but all types, as well as having a real impact on families and households at the individual level.
Another issue that has affected businesses of all kinds is consumer confidence. If people feel at risk while our doing their shopping, then it is going to be hard to get businesses back on their feet. To combat this Plymouth City Council have invested a significant amount into their Shop4Plymouth campaign, which includes ‘Geddon Plymouth’, an initiative supporting local Plymouth retailers and focusing on the amazing people behind the independent shops, and Call4FIsh which helps people to buy safely and to help UK fishermen and local traders.
Luke’s top tips for shopping safely
Luke has also put together Five Top Tips to do your Christmas shopping safely.
1. Shop in the ‘shoulder periods’
When the mall opens it is likely to be very busy during the day at its peak times. To avoid queues and lots of people try and do your shopping early in the morning or in the evenings. This will help you do your shopping quicker while staying safe.
2. Wear a mask and socially distance as much as possible
This should be the norm by now, but when in shops or cafes remember to keep back from other people and wear a mask to help limit the spread of the virus to you and to others. Please remember some people are exempt from wearing masks due to health conditions.
3. Trust Plymouth shop owners – and look for posters in their windows
Many Plymouth retailers have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure their businesses are safe and COVID-secure; they deserve us to support them through this tough time. To make things even easier, many shops have put posters in their window to indicate that they’re COVID-secure. Buy local and support local shops.
4. Respect limits in shops
Many businesses have had to impose limits on how many people can enter their shop at a time. If you are being asked to queue please be patient – this is to ensure there is social distancing in place in the stores. These will help to keep you and the staff safe.
5. Start now and shop local
Geddon Plymouth have collated a list of local shops and businesses that are offering click and collect or delivery. This way you can do your Christmas shopping and support local businesses and real people – without leaving your house!
While December will hopefully be a good month for many shops, Luke heard about the importance of supporting these businesses in the long-term too. During the first lockdown many people made the extra effort to shop local, but then reverted back into normal buying habits when it eased. We will need to give even more support as we move into 2021, with Brexit just weeks away, business loans that need to be paid back, and a tough COVID-19 winter. Make sure to shop local and help Plymouth businesses.
What is Lunch with Luke?
Before the pandemic Luke used to host a monthly roundtable meeting called ‘Politics and Pastries’ where he would discuss an issue with experts and frontline practitioners in Plymouth. The virus means he cannot host face to face meetings like this, so he’s changed this monthly event into a virtual ‘Lunch with Luke’ – although it is not compulsory to bring your sandwiches to the meeting.
Since being elected Luke has hosted an annual discussion of homelessness and events on topics ranging from sexual health, cycling, theatre and the creative sector and mental health. He uses these events to inform his campaigning on behalf of Plymouth.
Luke holds roundtable with people across the homelessness scene in Plymouth
Luke holds roundtable meeting with people from Plymouth’s dance community