Council leader calls for ‘urgent levelling up’ of coronavirus support
Date published: 01 December 2020
Council Leader Allen Brett
Council leader Allen Brett has called on the government to urgently expand the level of coronavirus support in place for businesses across the borough.
He was speaking ahead of Rochdale entering tier 3 tomorrow (2 December) – the highest level of restrictions – meaning bars, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, bowling alleys, hotels and B&Bs must continue to remain closed.
The announcement means that, without additional government support, the council faces the prospect of having to stretch the government’s previously announced Additional Restrictions Grant until the spring.
The grant enables local authorities to allocate to local businesses whose revenues have been hit as a result of coronavirus, as well as providing discretionary cash to help fund additional support measures.
The government has said that discretionary business grant funding won’t be increased or extended even after the new tier system is introduced after national lockdown on 2 December.
This grant funding was given to all local authorities at the start of national lockdown to support business hit hard by restrictions but not getting grant funding from elsewhere. It means that places in Tier 3 will get no more such funding than other areas going into Tier 1 and Tier 2.
Councillor Brett has now called on the government to retrospectively provide more support for areas like Rochdale, backed by Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham, who is calling for areas in the highest level of restrictions to receive a monthly business support grant based on a formula linked to the number of affected business in any area rather than simply the number of residents.
Mr Burnham believes that the formula used to calculate the funding - £20 per head of population - is unfair to cities and places with a larger hospitality sector and a higher number of business in the supply-chain.
Councillor Brett said: “Although coronavirus levels are coming down there is still a lot more to do, so I accept the decision at this stage to place us in tier 3 to help save lives and protect our local health services. What I cannot accept is the government’s two tier approach to funding that seems to be in place across the country, so when they look again at these measures on 16 December it needs to be a proper review not just tokenism.
“Many excellent local businesses are at breaking point and, despite the hard work of the council to support them, urgently need additional support in place to safeguard their future, protect the local economy and save jobs. It’s not good enough to just make these announcements, without a new package of economic and social support in place.
“It is soul destroying for our hospitality trade who have worked so hard to comply with the guidance to make their premises covid-19 secure. They have done their bit, now it’s up to the government to do their bit and realise how serious the economic situation is in towns like Rochdale.
“I am going to keeping banging the drum for our borough, as I have done throughout the pandemic, to ensure businesses across Rochdale, Middleton, Heywood and the Pennines get their fair share. The government talks about levelling up; a level playing field would be a welcome starting point.”
Mr Burnham added: “The government is continuing a policy of imposing harsh regional lockdowns without providing sufficient support to offset the damage to jobs and businesses.
“This is a deliberate act of levelling down from a government which only a year ago was elected on a promise to do precisely the opposite.
“It simply cannot be right or fair that Tier 1 Cornwall and the Isle of Wight are receiving the same level of business support as cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Hull. MPs representing Tier 3 areas on all sides of the House need to come together and demand a much fairer support package from the government.
“For businesses that support hospitality, December is traditionally the most important month of the year. To take that away without compensation will be devastating for them and many will not survive into the New Year.”
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