Northern businesses call for greater government support to stop North-South divide worsening

A group of business leaders from across the North have today written to the Prime Minster to urge a “new approach” to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, which would see local leaders taking a bigger say in such as the Test and Trace system. 

The letter, signed by representatives from Chambers of Commerce and local business improvement districts, comes in light of further restrictions placed across the North announced yesterday.

The leaders call for a five-point plan to support Northern businesses and communities through the next wave of lockdown:  

  1. Local decision making to agree additional lockdowns before they happen, and what measures are to be deployed between relevant services, with additional powers to take immediate action on non-compliance. Lockdown triggers to include a broader assessment than just absolute numbers, and not to include further economic restrictions.
  2. A locally controlled Test and Trace system that is sensitive to local knowledge and needs of communities. This should include a joint planning response with universities to provide effective support to students as part of containment plans.
  3. An improved Business Compensation Package to support those most affected. This will otherwise put at risk the Government’s ambitions to level up within this Parliament, as our cities stand to lose tens of thousands of jobs.
  4. Financial support for everyone who needs to self-isolate. Payment should recognise the additional support needs in our cities with higher levels of deprivation, and not be distributed on a per head of population basis.
  5. Improved monitoring of the impacts of the additional restrictions that have recently been put in place to understand their effect on Covid-19 rates.

    Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said:

“It shouldn’t be up to the Prime Minister to decide whether my neighbours and I in Bradford are a greater risk to one another than he or his constituents in Uxbridge, and apply the rules exclusively from Whitehall.

“The local furlough scheme, which the Chancellor is announcing later today, will go a long way to helping people across the North but we need a shift in mindset from the government, to allow local leaders to do the jobs they were elected to do.

“Test and Trace must be led locally, by leaders with specific knowledge of the area and its challenges. Local leaders also need a bigger say in further lockdowns, given that they are the ones that will be managing this on the ground.

“Before these lockdowns were announced we were starting to see some green shoots of recovery and these further lockdowns risk undoing any efforts towards levelling-up, particularly in Yorkshire and the North East. 

“Without support at the same level we received in the initial lockdown, there is a real chance that these lockdowns will end up widening the North-South divide – before we get the significant further investment needed to genuinely Build Back Better.”

Image credit: REUTERS / LEE SMITH -

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