While the entire country is going through a very uncertain time at the moment, the promise of an imminent vaccine roll-out should bring us back to some form of normality over the coming months and hopefully in time for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to enjoy a good summer tourist season.
In the meantime, it’s down to us to carry on as we have been doing - observing the Covid tier guidelines and keeping infection rates down, something we in the Westcountry have been doing very well.
I also want to say a big thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our police funding and budget survey.
The survey is now closed but I’m delighted to say we had our biggest response ever with a huge 4,130 people having their say and telling us all about their policing priorities.
The reason this survey is so important is because it helps me decide how much we are going to request from the precept - the part of the council tax budget that pays for policing.
Last year I made the decision to increase the precept to cope with increased costs, continue with our recruitment drive and to pay for innovative projects that will help police and partners make Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly an even safer and more prosperous place to live. I am working closely with the Chief Constable to understand the requirements for the 21/22 budget and the needs and expectations of our communities.
Businesses across the South West have never faced a year like 2020 before and the future remains uncertain for many industries, not least the tourism sector.
While Government initiatives like the furlough scheme and Eat of To Help Out have helped us weather the storm – so vital when a large part of your economy relies on the hospitality trade – there are still many, many businesses facing tough times ahead.
That said, I am optimistic about the longer-term prospects for our part of the world. Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have a world-class tourism and hospitality sector, combined with universities and a burgeoning knowledge economy that attracts people from around the globe.
But I do think people are going to need all the help they can get as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.
Last month the Government revealed that Devon and Cornwall Police will receive up to £18.7m in additional revenue for 2021/22. The settlement would allow for Devon and Cornwall Police force strength to grow by 132 officers in 12 months.
Police officers and staff have been vital in keeping our communities safe in 2020 and I am pleased that the Government intends to invest further in our force and remains committed to officer uplift despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Together with our communities paying more through their council tax in previous years, we have added 317 officers to force strength since 2016.
I’m delighted to say that recruitment has continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic and we even hosted another passing out ceremony – albeit a virtual one – in the days just before Christmas.
All of this demonstrates our commitment to the people of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – not only keeping them safe but doing so in a way that takes into account the huge demands we have all faced in the past 12 months.