‘Local lockdown lifeline’ needed for South Yorkshire’s economy

8th October 2020

Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, has called on the Government to deliver an urgent package of support for South Yorkshire’s economy, to prevent a wave of job losses and business failures.

The Mayor has called for action to help workers and businesses who see their income drop as a result of local COVID restrictions being imposed on the area. This week, the seven-day rate for positive COVID-19 tests exceeded 100 per 100,000 across Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham, meaning the region could face additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Two-thirds of the North’s population are living under some form of local restrictions but have not received any additional Government support to mitigate the impact on business, who have seen takings and trade plummet. Mayor Jarvis said South Yorkshire could not afford the same mistake and called on the Treasury to take decisive action.

Sectors such as the arts, culture and hospitality have already been hit hard by the pandemic, and the region’s pubs, bars, restaurants, galleries and other leisure hotspots face losing further income in the event of additional restrictions, with no certainty of when they can return to pre-COVID levels of operating.

While the Chancellor announced a Winter Economy Plan, there are gaps in support for economies with local restrictions in place. For example, the Government extended the 15% VAT cut for tourism and hospitality sector, yet this will not help businesses that are shut due to restrictions.

Mayor Jarvis has called on the Treasury to provide a targeted package for South Yorkshire’s economy, including:

  • Specific support for businesses in the hospitality, culture, arts and recreation sectors who are unable to operate at normal levels of capacity, including grants and further business rates relief after April 2021.This will target support at viable firms who have higher fixed costs and prevent venues closing and job losses. The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme should be extended for self-employed and freelancers in sectors affected by local restrictions.
  • Fund the South Yorkshire Works jobs and training programme set out in the Sheffield City Region Renewal Action Plan to drive up skills for workers and businesses, through a Kickstart + scheme, an extension of the Working Win pilot and additional funding for Skills Bank to help adults retrain and find work.
  • 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.

Mayor Dan Jarvis said: “Restrictions are necessary to stem the spread of COVID, however we have moved way beyond a local lockdown: we have been forced into a Northern shutdown, with no support for workers and employers. It is hard to imagine London and the South East facing the same fate.

“South Yorkshire cannot afford to see our high streets shuttered and the lights turned off in shops and bars. If we are to see further lockdown restrictions introduced, this must go hand in hand with support for our economy, to protect jobs, businesses and self-employed workers. We need a local lockdown lifeline across South Yorkshire to protect jobs and keep viable businesses afloat.

“The Government must also set out a clear strategy of how we exit local restrictions and start the job of recovery and renewal in our economy and society. Rather than levelling up, the Government risks doubling down on economic, health and social inequality and entrenching it for generations to come. They must deliver on their promises and not turn their back on people and businesses across South Yorkshire and the North.”

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