BUDGET: Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram: Urgent action on Coronavirus must be the priority in this budget

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, has called for immediate government action to support the NHS to respond to the coronavirus crisis and to protect household incomes and businesses.

At the same time he says the Budget mustn’t lose focus on the Government commitment to “level up” the North with investments in infrastructure and increased funding for Northern councils, which have been hollowed out during a decade of austerity.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Mayor Rotheram spells out his priorities for his first budget saying:

“Coronavirus is a serious public health emergency and it is right that the government focuses its immediate attention on preventing the spread of the developing crisis as far as possible through raising awareness, shoring up key medical supplies – including Coronavirus testing equipment – and increasing health service funding to cope with the huge pressure they will be under in the coming weeks.

“Any package of support must include confirming public health budgets for local councils, immediately. It is simply staggering that during a public health situation as serious as this one councils in the Liverpool City Region have no certainty over vital funding needed to support a response to Coronavirus. Given that councils in our area are some of the worst hit by austerity I would hope that funding is not only confirmed but also increased.”

In his letter, the Metro Mayor cites Government figures that up to a fifth of employees may be absent from work during the  outbreak, so increasing government support for sick pay and financial support for those required to self-isolate, is key.

The Metro Mayor has called for urgent Government financial support to protect the lowest paid workers and those in precarious employment who are most likely to bear the greatest financial risk from temporary periods of sickness. And he has asked the Chancellor to reduce the economic impact by supporting our businesses facing challenges through reduced demand, supply chain problems and cashflow issues during the crisis with credit and liquidity support and help for them to manage large numbers of employees who may of necessity be isolated from their workplaces.

“Tackling the Coronavirus crisis must be the number one priority for all of us. At the same time we mustn’t lose sight of the longer term need to address the UK’s biggest challenge, an unbalanced economy, and we in the Liverpool City Region are best placed to work with the Government to do just that. We have one of the most unequal societies in the OECD and we must remain focused on addressing that for the 1.6 million people in the Liverpool City Region and the whole of the north.”

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