Joint statement from the Leader of St Helens Borough Council, Metro Mayor, City Mayor and Leaders of the Liverpool City Region’s local authorities
Article date - 12 October 2020
A statement from St Helens Borough Council Leader Cllr David Baines; Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region; Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Council; Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council; Joe Anderson OBE, Mayor of Liverpool; Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council and Cllr Janette Williamson, Leader of Wirral Council
"In response to the high and rising Covid-19 cases in the City Region, we have been working collectively throughout the whole weekend to negotiate a package of support from the Government in the best interests of the people of the Liverpool City Region.
"Following further conversations with the Government today, we are writing to set out the current position between the Government and the LCR.
"Together we agree and share the grave concerns with regard to the increasing pressure on our hospitals and remain absolutely committed to working with the Government to drive down the spread of the Coronavirus and the number of Covid-19 cases.
"We have made it clear that while our priority is the health and wellbeing of our residents, the wellbeing of our economy is also a top priority. We made it clear we do not feel that the Furlough scheme announced recently is adequate and that businesses in the Region especially those in the hospitality sector and those serving it will be damaged and many will suffer long term damage or close for good. Government made it very, very clear they would not shift and improve the scheme. We also challenged Government on further issues, like Track & Trace, enforcement and funding for the City and Local Authorities to deal with the funding crisis and manage our budgets this year and next year.
"The government has decided that the following further measures and closures will apply to the Liverpool City Region. Pubs and bars; Betting Shops, Casinos and Adult Gaming Centres and Gyms will close. These measures they feel will help stop the spread of Covid 19, reduce the levels of infection and relieve pressure on our Hospitals and NHS.
"We acknowledge the Governments’ offer on new local arrangements and funding support for Enforcement and for Test, Trace and Isolate, specifically:
• An enforcement package, with laws, not just guidance and advice, and funding and resources to enforce restrictions where necessary.
• An effective local Track, Trace and Isolate package with the funding to support it, cooperation on data, local control and the guaranteed supplies and resources required.
"We also welcome the opportunity to engage logistics and capacity support from the Armed Forces, working alongside our own Local Authority staff and Public Health officials.
"These measures will be supported by a specific package of financial support for our City Region to cover a six-month period and not dependent upon the Tier position of our City Region.
"However, we must be clear that we have not yet reached an agreement on the wider economic support package that will be required as we go into Tier 3 restrictions but we have agreed to remain in meaningful dialogue with government to establish a wider, appropriate and mutually agreeable financial support package to mitigate the impact of new Tier 3 restrictions.
"If pubs, bars and other hospitality and leisure businesses are forced to close, there must be appropriate support for them and their staff.
"We are also in dialogue with the sector, to understand the impact of the Chancellor’s statement on Friday for how best to use our emergency fund, announced last week.
"Any package should acknowledge the additional pressure on businesses and their employees in Tier 3 areas and we seek acknowledgement of that from the Government as we look to work with them to develop an acceptable solution to these challenges and to provide support for local businesses.
"Our Local Authorities cannot continue to exist hand to mouth and are currently unable to plan for the medium or long-term. A clearer funding settlement must be achieved that enables us to forward plan, continue to deliver essential public services, avoid large scale redundancies for Local Authority key workers and set a budget for next year with confidence.
"Therefore, we are seeking assurance from Treasury that, in coming to that national position, no local authorities placed on Tier 3 measures will be put in a position where they are unable to balance their budget this year or cannot set a legal budget next year. In this respect we have agreed that a further discussion with Treasury will take place on this matter.
"We also require clear definition of the Exit Strategy from Tier 3.
"We remain committed to dialogue with the Government to achieve a mutually agreeable solution.
"We would also like at this point to thank our officers, who have been working closely with us throughout the weekend, for their ongoing support.