First published in The Felixstowe Flyer, January 2021.

We are glad to see the back of 2020, and cautiously optimistic that with the distribution of the new Covid-19 vaccines we can look forward to a more positive 2021.

The year ended on a bright note in Walton courtesy of the hard work under difficult circumstances of Shine a Light on Walton, who again provided beautiful illuminations. We are grateful for their commitment and were delighted to support their efforts last year through the District Council Community Enabling Budget. Hopefully we will be able to support them in this way next year.

Felixstowe Town Council have set up a Coronavirus grants fund to continue its work supporting local community groups and charities who have provided valuable services to many residents during the pandemic but needed Town Council financial assistance to ensure they could continue their services. For more information on this initiative please see Coronavirus Grants from Felixstowe Town Council.

2021 will bring new challenges. It remains to be seen what impact Brexit will have on the economy and knock-on effect of the chaos closer to home at the Port of Felixstowe. A surge in demand for goods and a shortage of ships during the pandemic led to delays and a backlog of containers at the Port, so shipping lines imposed substantially increased surcharges on containers imported into the UK. This will mean higher costs for businesses receiving their goods, as freight forwarding firms and hauliers already operating on low margins will pass on their increased costs to businesses and ultimately to consumers.

The Government has been generous with taxpayers’ money supporting businesses with Business Grants, Government-backed business loans, and funding the wages of furloughed staff. However, this money will need to be repaid. The Government has announced that from 6 April 2021 the National Living Wage will increase by 2.2% from £8.72 to £8.91 and will be extended to all 23 and 24-year olds for the first time. This had been expected to increase to £9.21 per hour but economic uncertainty led to the Conservative Chancellor shelving those plans. 16 and 17-year olds will receive an increase of 1.5% from £4.15 to £4.30 per hour.

The pay rise will come in handy for the extra car parking charges introduced by East Suffolk Council. We have been told that the increased charges were agreed with local Felixstowe traders who hope that the longer time allowance (£1.50 for two hours as opposed to £1 for one hour) may mean people stay for longer browsing the shops. The District Council has been asked to review the structure of the season ticket pricing and to reconsider whether or not to reinstate the extensions to time limits for Blue Badge holders.

Those residents who prefer two wheels to four will be encouraged to learn that the Town Council has submitted a response to East Suffolk Council’s consultation on: “How can we improve cycling and walking?” The Council received over 700 responses to its initial consultation (between 19 Oct – 7 Dec 2020). Cycling and walking are recognised as important in supporting better physical and mental health and reducing our impact on the environment, as well as congestion on our roads. The Council wishes to make cycling and walking in East Suffolk, whether for work, school, or leisure, safer, more convenient and more desirable for all ages and abilities.

Provided East Suffolk Council doesn’t agree to permit developers to dump more housing developments on Felixstowe green fields in 2021, Felixstowe should remain a pleasant town to live in.

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