North West Labour MPs and council leaders, including in Tameside and Oldham, have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak seeking reassurance that the region will continue to receive the same level of financial support being offered during the second national lockdown and calling for a lockdown exit plan.
The letter has been signed by Ashton-under-Lyne MP Angela Rayner, Denton MP Andrew Gwynne, Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds, Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon, Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams, Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding.
They have accused the government of "waiting until the last possible minute to act" in imposing the four-week lockdown in England, which starts on Thursday, adding that "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".
They go on to say that it was "an outrage" that the government had offered North West workers 67 per cent of their pre-coronavirus crisis income and that 80 per cent - which the original furlough scheme, now extended throughout the forthcoming lockdown, provides - was "impossible", but they "changed their mind" when restrictions were introduced in the south of the country.
"People in the North West are not worth 13 per cent less than those in the rest of the country," the letter said. "We are writing now to ask for reassurance that this will not happen again."
In the detailed letter, the Labour politicians have also asked the Chancellor to see an exit plan out of the lockdown, which is set to end on 2 December, and provide clarification of what support the North West can expect to receive if the tier system of coronavirus restrictions returns next month.
They say they want 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
They say that "valuable time" has been lost, claiming that Labour's call for an earlier circuit breaker would "not only have slowed the rate of transmission but minimised the impact on the economy and prevented the loss of many jobs".
The letter added: "We cannot afford for any more time to be wasted or plans to be made and scrapped. We need to see concrete plans for what happens when this lockdown is lifted and we need to see them now."
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