Ahead of potential further restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus in South Yorkshire, Mayor Dan Jarvis and the four council leaders Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, Mayor Ros Jones, Cllr Chris Read and Cllr Julie Dore have written to the Prime Minister.
In the letter to Boris Johnson they said:
Dear Prime Minister,
We are seeking support for our region’s economy ahead of additional local COVID restrictions, without which there will be potentially dire consequences for lives, jobs and businesses in South Yorkshire.
Before additional restrictions come into force, we are calling for a local lockdown lifeline for South Yorkshire. This means ensuring we have the resources, powers and investment we need to protect jobs and the economy in both the short and long term. This will also ensure we have a clear route out of local restrictions, so we can get on with the job of rebuilding our economy and society.
We are calling on you to back our five-point plan which will ensure we keep people, jobs and businesses across South Yorkshire safe, by:
1. Providing an immediate injection of funding for our services which protect the public, stop the spread of the virus in communities and ensure the latest guidance is reaching residents and is understood. There was already a deficit between the emergency funding and our costs, and that is widening. We need a cast-iron guarantee shortfalls will be underwritten to allow us to continue the fight against the virus, going door to door if necessary, and plan for the next financial year.
2. A targeted support package for businesses in the hospitality, leisure and recreation sectors that are unable to operate at anything like normal levels of capacity, or face entire closure. This includes flexible grants administered through local authorities and further business rates concessions after April 2021, to target support at viable firms that will likely have higher fixed costs and whose failure risks an avoidable domino-effect across local economies. We must also retain COVID business support grants to create a Fightback Fund to help our high streets.
3. Support for jobs, through ‘local furlough’ for workers in businesses who are unable to work or see their hours cut as a result of the restrictions. The Government should enhance the Job Support Scheme to fully fund the costs of the hours not worked up to a limit of £1,400 per month. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme should be extended for self-employed and freelance workers for the duration of local restrictions.
4. Provide additional testing capacity and put our Directors of Public Health in the driving seat with Test and Trace, so we can manage outbreaks more effectively in our communities, ramp up house-to-house drop off and collection of testing kits, and plug the gaps in tracing contacts who have been missed by the national system. In Sheffield, data shows that one in four people who have been in close contact with someone with the virus are not being reached. Cases will spiral out of control if the Government’s Test and Trace system continues to fail to contact people who need to self-isolate.
5. Increase the eligibility criteria for the Test and Trace support payment for people who are unable to work because they are self-isolating, above the £500 threshold, so that more people are financially able to make the right choice to isolate if they test positive for COVID or come into contact with somebody that has.
Without additional support we face a huge economic downturn which will impact the people and businesses of South Yorkshire for decades to come. Rather than levelling up, the Government risks doubling down on health, social and economic inequality and entrenching it for generations to come. We stand ready to work with you to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and ensure South Yorkshire pulls through this, together.
Mayor Dan Jarvis MBE MP Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority
Cllr Julie Dore Leader, Sheffield City Council
Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton CBE Leader, Barnsley Council
Cllr Chris Read Leader, Rotherham Council
Mayor Ros Jones CBE Leader, Doncaster Council