Covid support packages shine a light on regional inequalities
Covid support packages shine a light on regional inequalities

Northumberland County Council’s Lynne Grimshaw says Covid support packages have highlighted inequality in the regions.

Councillor Grimshaw, who represents Ashington and is a member of the council’s audit committee and vice chair of the council’s corporate services and economic growth committee believes the government’s approach to supporting areas under local restrictions is fundamentally unfair and risks a gulf in support opening up across the country.

She sites a number of examples where regional inequalities exist, namely:

  • The £20-a-head business support grant (Additional Restrictions Grant) is a one off payment – so regions have to make it stretch for as long as they are in Tier 3.
  • Tier 1 areas received the same package for just 28 days of national lockdown as areas now facing many months in Tier 3. This means businesses in areas that have already spent weeks under the tightest restrictions are being treated unequally.
  • Businesses are also in the dark about the future of the furlough scheme, which is up for review in January.

Lynne Grimshaw said: “The Chancellor is still refusing to help millions of people excluded from his self-employed support schemes, despite having had months to plug the gaps. And he still hasn’t come up with support packages for many of the sectors and industries hit hardest by this crisis.

“It’s completely irresponsible for the government to leave Tier 3 areas like Northumberland in the lurch again. The Chancellor must make the responsible choice and come forward with a clear system of business support for the hardest-hit areas.

“It’s welcome that our largest supermarkets have done the decent thing and returned the money they gained from the UK government’s one-size-fits-all approach to rates relief. The UK government must now urgently do the right thing and use this money to fix the holes in its economic support schemes and end the unfairness in the current system.

“It was alarming to read reports in the media this week that the government is aware of what is going on in the economy. The Prime Minister must commit this week to release all the modelling it has done of sectoral impacts and potential job losses, so we can decide whether his economic package is enough and what further improvements need to be made. If it does not do so, Labour will be ready to force a vote on the matter.”

Labour is calling for:

  • a business support package that reflects business need and length of time under each tier; and
  • no increase in employer contributions within the furlough scheme in January, as the government has threatened.
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