‘Sixty-seven per cent of their wages doesn’t cut it!’ Northern leaders hold out for more money in bitter haggling with No 10 over subsidies under three-tier lockdown system

  • Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme covers 67% of staff pay in firms forced to shut
  • Cross-party politicians fear payments won’t be enough to avoid mass job losses
  • Mayor Steve Rotheram said: ‘I’m afraid 67 per cent of their wages doesn’t cut it’

Political leaders in English areas being forced into new lockdown tiers from tomorrow are trying to extract extra cash from the Government, claiming plans to prop up businesses and workers’ wages don’t go far enough.

They reacted today after Rishi Sunak last night reiterated his new furlough scheme covering two-thirds of staff pay in firms forced legally to close under new rules, as well as increased cash grants for businesses.

The cross-party politicians fear that the payments will not be enough to avoid mass job losses, especially in hospitality roles in areas where pubs and bars are forced to shut.

Under plans for bespoke local rules gyms, bookies, hairdressers, beauty salons and other businesses may also have to shut their doors. 

It came as the number of UK redundancies rises at its fastest rate since the 2008 financial crisis, as unemployment surges to 1.5million amid fears millions more will be on the dole queue by Christmas. 

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region which will go into the top Very High category tomorrow, told the BBC: ‘I’m afraid 67 per cent of their (hospitality workers) wages doesn’t cut it.

‘They can’t pay two-thirds of their gas or electricity, or when they go to a shop, they can’t say ”can you cut that by a third”.

‘We need the Government to work with us so we can provide a package of support that, one, secures the likelihood that our businesses can come out of this at the other end.

‘Two, it ensures that people stay in jobs, and three, that our overall economy is not severely impacted post-pandemic by the measures taken by Government today.’

Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region which will go into the top Very High category tomorrow, told the BBC: ‘I’m afraid 67 per cent of their (hospitality workers) wages doesn’t cut it.’

Millions of people are covered by the two higher risk tiers in the government’s new system, with the rest of England under the Rule of Six and 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants


The Government unveiled its new three-tier coronavirus lockdown system last night but there are fears over financial support

Under the expansion of the job support scheme, the Government will pay 67 per of a worker’s salary, up to £2,100 per month, if a business is forced to close under local lockdown restrictions.

Mr Rotheram said, while the severity of the new lockdown measures were ‘comparable’ to the national restrictions in March, the support now being offered was not ‘anywhere near’ what had been provided earlier in the year.

Mr Rotheram added: ‘If it was right then, it has to be right now.’

While pubs and bars will be required to close in the Liverpool City Region, the Government said they can remain open if they operate as a restaurant.  

The number of jobless people rose by 138,000 quarter on quarter to 1.52million in the three months to August – the highest since 2017. The unemployment rate rose to 4.5 per cent, from 4.1 per cent in the prior three months.

The Office for National Statistics added that the number of UK workers on company payrolls fell by 673,000 between March and September, despite edging up by 20,000 last month.

The data also showed redundancies jumped by a record 114,000 on the quarter to 227,000, their highest level since 2009 when Britain was in the grip of the global financial crisis, which started a year earlier in 2008.

The FTSE 100 index of Britain’s leading companies was down 0.6 per cent or 35 points to 5,967 today following the news, which added to concerns about the economic impact of new coronavirus-led business restrictions.

Andy Preston, the independent mayor of Middlesbrough, said Tier Two restrictions introduced in the town would effectively force businesses to close due to a lack of financial support.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: ‘What’s happening right now as we speak, there are people getting ready to close their businesses.

‘The Government hasn’t legally told them to close, so there is no financial package directly available, but they are effectively being told to close because their customers aren’t coming because they are not allowed to mix with friends, relatives and other people in the restaurants or the bars or the other venues.

‘So the Government is effectively closing these venues. We need real support, real financial help now and we want to work with the Government to get through this and build a much better 2022, 2023.’

Mr Preston added that there was ‘very little evidence that well-run bars and well-run restaurants contribute at all really to the spread of the virus’, adding: ‘It is all exclusively transmitted in the home, at school or a place of learning or a place of work.’

Asked what he made of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommending a ‘circuit-breaker’ style lockdown, Mr Preston said he ‘wasn’t a medical expert’ but that he was ‘sceptical about such a harsh lockdown’.

Robert Jenrick ruled out any other areas joining the Liverpool city region in Tier 3 this week but said there is no time for ‘party politics’ when discussing further measures

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick ruled out any other areas joining the Liverpool city region in Tier Three this week but said there is no time for ‘party politics’ when discussing further measures.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What we don’t want to do is impose measures on parts of the country without the consent of local communities and their local leadership.

‘So we made a specific decision, and many people have been calling for us to do this, to work intensively with those local leaders.

‘I think that bore fruit over the weekend in respect to Merseyside – we had very good conversations with (Liverpool Mayor) Joe Anderson and (Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor) Steve Rotheram, the two elected mayors, and as a result of that were able to agree a package of measures and associated support for Merseyside.

‘We are having similar conversations with other parts of the country and I hope we will be able to engender the same spirit of non-partisan working with other mayors elsewhere in the Midlands and the North.’

Asked whether more areas could enter Tier Three Mr Jenrick replied: ‘No, there are no plans for other parts of the country to go into Tier Three this week, but this is kept under review and we will keep talking with those local leaders and listening to their views.’

He added later: ‘We should be having local and national government working in harmony as we are trying to tackle this – at the end of the day it is a national crisis, it is not a moment for party politics. I think we can put that aside and work closely together.’    

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