‘We will not allow a lockdown on the cheap’

Businesses in Liverpool city region will get access to a £40m COVID-19 support fund as Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram continues to push for extra cash from the Government. Tony McDonough reports

Steve Rotheram
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram

 

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram will unveil a £40m fund to support the furloughing of workers in businesses forced to close by new COVID-19 control measures.

Mr Rotheram also said he and the city region leaders had written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ask for formal talks to begin on more financial support for businesses across the city region. He added: “We will not allow them to do lockdown for the North on the cheap.”

This week, Prime Minister Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a new three-tier system of COVID-19 control measures. He immediately placed Liverpool city region on tier three, which is the highest alert level.

Merseyside is currently the region worst hit by the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus. Rising cases have led to a jump in hospitalisation which, in turn, has led to a rise in the number of COVID patients in intensive care. ICU in Liverpool are now hovering around 95% full.

From Wednesday this week all pubs and bars, gyms and leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos have all been ordered to close. The restrictions cover the six boroughs of the city region – Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton.

Mr Rotheram says the new support scheme for businesses announced by the Chancellor last week was inadequate and would lead to businesses failures and large-scale job losses. The scheme would see the Government pay furloughed workers 67% of their wages – down from the original 80%. It also offers monthly cash grants of up to £3,000.

The Metro Mayor says he will continue to press for extra support from the Government and, in the meantime, he will on Thursday announce the details of his £40m scheme that will offer some extra support to stricken businesses.

“Time and again we pressed Government on the need for extra financial support for those businesses, jobs and people who would be hit by these new restrictions,” he said on Wednesday afternoon. “Today we have written to the Chancellor asking for talks to formally begin immediately on a proper financial settlement.

“I know that those who are being hit hard by the restrictions coming into force today, help can’t come soon enough. While we fight for further funding from government we will step up to the plate locally.

“We’ll be launching a £40m stopgap fund to support local businesses. Our intention is to fill the gap left by a national furlough scheme and give extra support not only to those forced businesses to close, but also those who are still open but will be detrimentally impacted all the same.

“We’re doing everything we can to provide this vital stopgap but Government should be in no doubt that we expect them to keep to their word and provide the funding our businesses and people desperately need. We will not allow them to do lockdown for the North on the cheap.”

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