Ahead of the Prime Minister’s announcement for easing COVID restrictions, expected on Monday (February 22), Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis has said the Government must act to avoid a ‘deeply divided recovery’ for South Yorkshire and the North.
The Mayor warned that lifting COVID restrictions, without providing additional economic support for jobs and businesses, will ‘level down’ struggling towns and cities and entrench inequality between the North and the rest of the country.
He warned of a situation where parts of the country able to reunite with their families freely and their economies opened up, while others languish in tighter restrictions with workers and businesses facing a fight for survival.
Instead, the country should exit national lockdown together, cautiously and gradually, with health and economic measures working hand in hand. The Mayor said those measures must be forthcoming at the Budget on March 3, calling for:
- More support for workers to self-isolate, so they don’t have to choose between their duty to the community and their livelihoods. Payments should be increased above £500 and the criteria extended to include more people.
- A flexible furlough scheme and support for sectors still hampered by restrictions, providing as much cushion as possible for the impact of restrictions on the local economy.
- Investment in the South Yorkshire Renewal Action Plan to create jobs, drive up skills and transform our infrastructure, kick starting the economic recovery from COVID and laying the foundations for a stronger, greener, fairer future for South Yorkshire’s people, businesses and places.
Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, said:
“COVID is causing unprecedented upheaval, choking-off life opportunities and tearing the heart and soul out of communities across the North. Unless the PM’s roadmap out of lockdown includes the necessary urgent measures for economic and social renewal, then all we’ll see is a deeply divided recovery that further entrenches the inequalities that have held our country back for too long.
“Past mistakes tell us we should not hastily abandon the restrictions and sacrifices that have saved lives and protected the NHS. They also show that without health and economic support working hand in glove, we’ll not only struggle get to the virus under control, but leave workers and businesses feeling abandoned.
“In parts of South Yorkshire, only a third of people can work from home. Our warehouse and distribution workers keep supermarket shelves stocked and essential goods and supplies moving. But they do so facing great danger. If workers are unable to stay at home, it puts lives at risk and delays our efforts to get the virus under the control: leading to a vicious, never-ending cycle of tighter restrictions and damage to our economy.
“People, businesses and our NHS cannot afford a fourth lockdown. We should ease restrictions step by step: in line with the science, with the right economic support and in a cautious and gradual timeframe. If the Prime Minister and Chancellor do not get this right, South Yorkshire and the North will be further levelled down for the long-term. They must put us on the right course at the Budget.”