IN this week’s column, Warrington South MP Andy Carter discusses the planned unlocking date of June 21.

The question on all our minds at the moment is whether restrictions will be lifted fully on June 21.  We don’t yet have enough data from changes that were made in May but the next two weeks in particular will be critical to understanding where we are. 

The Government deliberately designed the process for lifting restrictions with reviews every five weeks, allowing four weeks for changes to take effect and a week to make the announcement.  There’s no doubt that the problem variants is causing concern however to date that hasn’t fed through to hospitalisations and we’ve seen zero deaths over the last seven days in Warrington. 

Now more than ever we still need to remain alert to taking steps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. So, the basics of washing hands and meeting outside where possible. 

We know we’ve got to live with the virus and making sure we offer second doses as soon as possible to everyone over fifty who is most at risk is critical to the effort to lift restrictions. When you get the call, get the jab.

More locally, I am continuing to bring attention to the rise in illegal contraband being delivered to Thorn Cross Prison in Appleton Thorn.

In recent months, Cheshire Police have had to step up patrols near the open prison after residents reported packages of drugs, steroids and alcohol being hidden in their gardens.

As an open prison, the opportunities for smuggling are much greater, so we need a range of tools at our disposal to stamp it out. Next week I am meeting with the Prisons Minister, Alex Chalk MP, alongside local residents to raise my concerns directly with him and to see what more can be done.

Improving facilities at our schools has been a priority since I was elected and we’ve seen some significant investment into both High Schools and Primaries over the last 18 months.  Last week I met with the Schools Minister in the House of Lords, Baroness Berridge along with Principal John Carlin from Penketh High School and TCAT CEO Andy Moorecroft to inform her of plans to improve the facilities in Penketh. Having visited recently, I’m in no doubt that the school is in need of a major refurbishment or relocation, and I have called for additional funding to improve facilities.  The Minister has agreed to look at proposals in the coming weeks and has already brought a review of the capital estate forward.

Finally, during half term week it was great to be able to get out and about visiting many of our local businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors who have been so patient throughout the pandemic. It is wonderful to now see our pubs, restaurants, gyms and hotels back open for business, so please support them whether it’s by having a pint, a meal, catching a film or just burning off a few calories. In the same way we rallied round during lockdown, helping our neighbours, we now have to rally round our High Streets as it gets back on its feet.  

One sector which has been very adversely impacted is the wedding business, speaking to the Walker family who own the beautiful Statham Lodge hotel in Lymm it’s clear how important these big family occasions are for sustaining local hotels.  They have been running for the last 60 years providing hospitality to thousands of guests at their Georgian Manor House. Weddings are set to resume in July, when the hotel full re-opens and they’re already showing future guests around the lovely facilities which have recently undergone refurbishments, so do check them out.