I AM pleased that we are now at a stage where restrictions are being eased, writes Kirsty Williams.

This is due to the huge sacrifices made by so many and again I want to thank everyone who has followed the guidance and stuck to the rules to help keep themselves and their community safe and to help to protect the NHS.

From Monday, July 6, two households in Wales have been able to form one “extended household” to meet indoors and stay overnight. The local travel restrictions were lifted the same day. I know that this will be a huge boost to so many who have badly missed seeing loved ones who do not live nearby.

This follows the opening of schools in Wales to “check in, catch up and prepare” on June 29 and the opening of non-essential retail on June 22. I know that for many communities the local businesses that have stayed open, diversifying into takeaway or home deliveries as needed, have been absolutely invaluable. When some products were hard to come by, I know that local shops stepped up to stock these to help support their local communities. Now with the opening up of all retail we have the opportunity to pay back the support of our local shops and indeed help to protect them and the local economy for the future.

In Powys, the County Council has launched a campaign to #SupportLocalPowys and additional to this, my colleague Cllr James Gibson-Watt and the Welsh Liberal Democrat Council Group have called for free parking in all Powys County Council car parks to help revive the county’s market town centres. If space for social distancing has to be created on our town’s high streets then I believe it is essential that Powys Cabinet support this request.

One issue that has blighted our rural town centres in recent years is the closure of banks. I was therefore very pleased back in May to write a letter of support for Hay-on-Wye Chamber of Commerce’s application for Hay-on-Wye to be a pilot town for the Access to Cash Scheme. Hay was chosen as one of the eight UK locations to be a pilot for this scheme which is absolutely fantastic. I look forward to working with the steering group on this pilot project and hope that these trials will help to find innovative solutions to help tackle this important issue for Hay and our other towns.

As ever, myself and my staff are available at kirsty.williams@senedd.wales if we can be of any assistance.