Sheffield City Council is calling on the Government for more support for the city as potentially more restrictions are put in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is expected that Sheffield will face further restrictions when the Government announces its new tier system, later today. The new tier system could bring further restrictions on household mixing within the city which could also affect businesses, already suffering because of the pandemic.
Now the council has joined with Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis and the leaders at Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster Councils, in urging the Government to do more to support the region.
Councillor Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said:
“Whilst we fully understand the need for further restrictions to bring the spread of this virus down, Sheffield also needs more funding and support for businesses, communities and individuals affected to get us through this crisis. This city has done everything it can to try and stop the spread of the virus and our residents, communities and businesses have all played their part: but we can’t do it alone. Further restrictions must be backed up with solid support from the Government and we must know this is in place to help us continue to support our most vulnerable, enable our businesses to survive and give us a sound foundation for recovery when the time is right.”
Eugene Walker, SCC Executive Director for Resources, added:
“This is an important step, coming together as a city region to urge the Government to provide us with the support we need is crucial if these new restrictions are going to be effective.We have been in discussion with the Government over the weekend and stated our position with a clear five point plan for economic support and clarity on what any new restrictions mean. We want to see a package of support agreed before any further restrictions are placed on the city and the region.”
The Council joined in with the three other authorities and Sheffield City Region Combined Authority in discussions with Government on Friday and have written a joint letter detailing what is required before restrictions are put in place.
The letter contains a clear five point plan calling for more economic support and clarification on what any new restrictions will mean.
The five point plan states:
- Providing an immediate injection of funding for our services which protect the public, stop the spread of the virus in communities and ensure the latest guidance is reaching residents and businesses, is understood, monitored and, where necessary, is enforced. We also wish to undertake a broader range of activity focused on prevention, including the provision of free face coverings and a localised campaign to promote behaviour change.
We also need to protect our more vulnerable people, through:
- Clarity on the shielding programme and commensurate additional resources to deliver this;
- Providing accommodation support for social care workers to protect the residents in our care homes; and
- An extension of the ‘Everybody In’ programme.
There was already a deficit between the emergency funding, our lost income and our increased costs, and that gap is widening. We need a cast-iron guarantee, shortfalls will be underwritten to allow us to continue the fight against the virus, going door to door if necessary, and plan for the next financial year.
We know that this will create additional pressures for other organisations, like the NHS, primary care, the Police and the Health and Safety Executive in South Yorkshire, will also need to have access to additional resources and capacity. For example. the c.£50m shortfall in the Budget to the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System for the remainder of the financial year must be addressed immediately.
We are also in discussions with our Universities regarding the management of students and will need further discussions with Government on this issue.
- A targeted support package for businesses in the hospitality, leisure and recreation sectors and its supply chain that are unable to operate at anything like normal levels of capacity, or face entire closure. Whilst we welcome the provision of the £3000 per month grant announced on Friday, that should be available at tier 2. Additional funds need to be provided akin to the measures announced in March to support the immediate cashflow pressures that will be faced. Further business rates concessions after April 2021 will also be required, to target support at viable firms that will likely have higher fixed costs and whose failure risks an avoidable domino-effect across local economies. We must also retain COVID business support grants to create a Fightback Fund to help our high streets.
- Support for jobs, through ‘local furlough’ for workers in businesses who are unable to work or see their hours cut as a result of the restrictions. The Government must build upon the measures announced on Friday, to:
- Provide an equivalent level of support to places in local lockdown as was made available through the national measures in March, increasing the rate of payment from 67% to 80%;
- Provide prompt first payments for recipients
- Be made available at tier 2, not just at tier 3 and allow for ‘flexible furlough’ as has been the case in recent months;
- Apply to businesses required to close by law by national government and those requested to close by a local authority to control infection rates; and
- Be open to workers in businesses that are part of the supply chains of those that have closed or which see significantly reduced demand (i.e. logistics and agriculture linked to the hospitality sector).
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme should be extended for self-employed and freelance workers for the duration of local restrictions.
- Provide additional testing capacity and put our Directors of Public Health in the driving seat with Test and Trace, so we can manage outbreaks more effectively in our communities including amongst our students, ramp up house-to-house drop off and collection of testing kits, and plug the gaps in tracing contacts who have been missed by the national system. In Sheffield alone, the latest data shows more than a third of people who have been in close contact with someone with the virus are not being reached. The Yorkshire and Humber COVID-19 contact tracing ‘surge’ support proposal should be approved, and the additional funding should be provided to local authorities in South Yorkshire from the £97m unallocated national pot. Cases will spiral out of control if the Government’s Test and Trace system continues to fail to contact people who need to self-isolate. We also need a more effective means to assure people who need to are self isolating.
- Increase the eligibility criteria for the Test and Trace support payment for people who are unable to work because they are self-isolating, above the £500 threshold, so that more people are financially able to make the right choice to isolate if they test positive for COVID or come into contact with somebody that has. The statutory sick pay rebate provided to firms for employees needing to self-isolate should also be increased.
Cllr Dore added:
“Our city and region, like the rest of the country, have faced tough times and shown resilience throughout. Now the Government must ensure the package of measures detailed on the five-point plan are delivered to enable the city to continue to take the steps we need to halt the spread of the virus. Working together, we urge the Government to do the right thing and give us the support we need at this critical time.”