On 2nd April, I wrote to the local Member of Parliament, complaining at the government’s unfair application of the provisions of the lockdown:
I would be grateful if you would seek clarification from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as to why there has been blatant unfairness in the Government’s approach to the closure of businesses.You will be familiar with the garden centres in your constituency, businesses which have contributed significantly to the life of the community and which are important to thousands of your constituents (without such numbers, the number of local centres would not be sustainable). Although they are important to the mental and physical health of large numbers of people, such centres have been reasonably asked to close, yet shops like The Range are being permitted to continue to trade selling a full range of garden products.Claims by The Range that it should remain open for the sale of essential household and hardware items are mostly spurious, a brief perusal of its stock shows that most of what it sells is non-essential. Given that its garden centre occupies a discrete area to the rear of the store, why has the Government not required the closure of such areas?Were I an owner or employee of a garden centre, I would feel a strong sense of grievance toward the Government at its failure to deal even-handedly with businesses. I hope that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will seek to remedy an unjust situation where a large retailer from outside of the community has been allowed to profit, ultimately to the detriment of local traders and people.
I received an immediate response from the MP’s office:
I have sought clarification from the Minister of Housing, Communities and Local Government regarding your enquiry and I will come back to you as soon as I receive a response.
Seven weeks later, there has been no response, nor is there likely to be one. The government’s treatment of many businesses has been wholly indefensible. The insistence that particular stores should remain open because they sold “essential” items became increasingly absurd when, despite issuing guidelines, ministers refused to give any legislative force to what constituted an essential item, and when media pictures showed people coming from shops having bought goods that could never have been imagined to be essential.
The lockdown has been a boon time for the supermarkets, there has been no need for special offers or price cuts, they have had a captive market. Many smaller businesses will never reopen and those that do will find themselves severely disadvantaged by a government that claims to be in favour of business.