Getting back to something near normal……

Norman Webster

Getting back to something near normal……

Savanta ComRes, conducted a snap poll of just over 1,000 people after the Prime Minister’s announcement in the Commons, to look at the English public’s views on the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown and towards something near ‘normal’.

 A few key findings from the poll include:

• More than half were satisfied with the roadmap; just 1 in 6 were dissatisfied (52% vs 17%).

• Nearly half (45%) said that the road map is cautious; 31% about right and 19% reckless.

• 2 in 5 (42%) said that reopening schools on 8 March was too early, while 1% more said it’s ‘about right’ (43%)

Despite this, approaching half (46%) supported all pupils returning to schools, rather than a phased return for younger pupils or those studying for exams. Interestingly 1/3 opposed the plans to reopen schools for all; this after almost a year of very disrupted schooling. The impact on our young folk is dire and it will take a long time, and much effort, to recover. Some reports show that around 1,000,000 children have had no formal schooling at all for the past year, whilst some education authorities reveal online attendances sitting at around 33% of students.

Going back to Savanta ComRes, their poll reveals that, for some of the plans, the public feel that they will come too late, specifically non-essential retail reopening after April 12 (32% too late vs 19% too early) and close-contact personal services such as hairdressers (30% too late vs 23% too early).

But for almost all the specific plans, between 2 in 5 and half (42-52%) of the public say the government is getting the timing about right, except for foreign holidays possibly being able to resume on May 17, which the public are more likely to say could be too early (44% too early vs 36% about right).

Reports from some holiday firms reveal foreign flight bookings surged by 500% in the immediate aftermath of the Prime Minister’s announcement.

People are most looking forward to meeting outdoors, pubs, bars and restaurants reopening and close contact services opening up again. I wonder how many of us will retain the lockdown hair look, in the months going forward.

High Street retail has changed forever. Of those shops that remain, more will fail unless we support them locally. Changed commuting habits may see a boom in town centre support, as more of us work from home and pop into town during a break from work.

How many of us will want a local shared office space, so perhaps hotdesking will take off, with office workers making use of shared space for a few hours a week. I do hope there will be a general reassessment of everything that we do, as we readjust from our cocooning state.

Some 35 years ago I attended a presentation by Faith Popcorn, an American futurologist. I find people like her fascinating and still follow her at https://faithpopcorn.com/ 

She spoke back then of sweeping societal changes such as Cocooning, AtmosFear, Anchoring, 99 Lives, Icon Toppling, and Vigilante Consumer.

As the lead strategist for her BrainReserve, Faith applies her future focussed brain power to cultural and business trends, to help her BrainReserve clients reposition their established brands and companies, develop new strategies and innovative new products, services, and experiences.

Her website describes her as, “a trusted advisor to the CEOs of The Fortune 500 including such companies as Allergan, American Express, Avon, Bayer, Campbell’s Soup, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, KFC, Mars, SC Johnson, Tylenol and The United States Postal Service”.

It is her experiential marketing that, I think, should be of interest to East Grinstead. Our town was promoted on the back on London busses, about 10 years ago, as “Tudor England 45 minutes from London”. And what an experience it is too. The longest uninterrupted line of timber framed Tudor buildings in England, Standen and other National Trust sites nearby, East Grinstead Museum, Sackville College, East Court, a super little theatre, McIndoe’s statue, some fine B&Bs, good restaurants, a vibrant outdoor dining High Street, excellent sports facilities in EG Rugby and Sports Clubs, with Worth Way and Forest Way connecting London to Paris on the Avenue Verte. The list goes on; no wonder I feel such pride in East Grinstead and its surrounding villages, each with their own unique history and character.

As we look to the future, I hope this enthuses you to invite friends and family to visit, when Covid allows, which it undoubtedly will. Day trippers and overnight visitors used to make up a substantial part of the Mid Sussex economy. 

We have strong and resilient communities in the District, with high levels of education and a position in the top quartile nationally for social mobility. As Community Cabinet Member, I am very proud of this statistic; it is not just a statistic, it is peoples lives. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister recently being questioned in the Commons about the situation uni students find themselves in. Clearly their financial, educational and social experiences have been impacted by Covid and we need to do whatever possible to support them amidst the host of different groups who have been impacted. Government has injected almost £30m into our local Mid Sussex economy and almost £300b into the national economy. We need to wean ourselves off this level of financial life support in the months ahead.

I am convinced that if we all put our efforts into rebuilding, then in time, we will have earned a decent holiday break away. This could be either rediscovering a corner of England, or perhaps even venturing abroad again. Who knows what the future holds? 

Norman Webster, District Councillor

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