OLDHAM’s council leader and MPs have signed a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak criticising the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sean Fielding, Debbie Abrahams and Jim McMahon were joined by other Labour North West MPs and council leaders in voicing their concerns.
They wrote: “We are writing to you as the leaders of councils and MPs in the North West where many of us have been living under extra restrictions long before the national lockdown was announced.
“Once again, the Government has waited until the last possible minute to act, meaning a huge amount of anxiety for the people of Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region.
“This chopping and changing of plans and a lack of coherent strategy have caused great pain in the North West and stopped businesses being able to plan from one week to the next.
“We have faced months of restrictions and the truth is that morale is very low here because of Government failures.
“It is an outrage that during the negotiations for entering Tier 3, the Government said that workers in the North West should only get 67% of their pre-crisis income and that 80% was impossible. Now, when restrictions have to be introduced in the south, you have changed your mind.
“People in the North West are not worth 13% less than those in the rest of the country.
“We are writing now to ask for assurance that this will not happen again. We ask to see the exit plan out of this lockdown and, if that involves a return to places like the North West having to live under tougher restrictions for longer, what support our businesses, NHS, public health and individuals can expect to receive.
“We would like to see:
- Localised Test, Trace, and Isolate run by the people who know their areas the best
- Fix the gaps in support for the self-employed
- Convert the Universal Credit loan into a grant, end the five-week wait, and scrap the benefit cap, the two-child limit and the savings limit
- Renew the evictions and repossessions bans, reduce the waiting time for Support for Mortgage Interest and increase Local Housing Allowance to average rents
- Restart the ‘Everybody In’ scheme to look after rough sleepers ahead of the winter
- Suspend sanctioning benefit claimants
- Continued support in place for areas that need to remain under restrictions/
“We have lost valuable time in this battle against Covid when Labour’s call for an earlier circuit breaker would not only have slowed the rate of transmission but would have minimised the impact on the economy and prevented the loss of many jobs.
“We cannot afford for any more time to be wasted or plans to be made and scrapped. The people of Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region deserve to know that their Government has a strategy to see them through this crisis and prevent waves of unemployment only too familiar to some of our communities in the North West.
“We need to see concrete plans for what happens when this lockdown is lifted and we need to see them now.”