COUNCIL leaders in West Yorkshire have issued a joint appeal to the Government for emergency funding to protect jobs and contain Covid-19 after Bradford and the rest of the county were put into Tier 2 lockdown yesterday.

Tier 2, the High level of the Local Covid Alert Levels system, means households can mix in outdoor settings, but indoor mixing in people's homes and in the hospitality sector is banned.

Bradford Council's leader Susan Hinchcliffe, who is also head of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, co-signed the letter along with Leeds' Judith Blake, Kirklee's Shabir Pandor, Tim Swift of Calderdale and Wakefield's Denise Jeffery.

The letter said: "We wrote to you on Friday, October 9, setting out our concerns about the prevalence of the Covid-19 virus and that we are determined to do everything in our power to control its spread.

"In the light of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday, we felt it was important to write again now that West Yorkshire has been classified in a Tier Two ‘high’ level of alert.

"Our priority is to take the actions that would be most effective in tackling the virus, and that properly funded local test and tracing, coupled with deep community engagement to encourage the right isolating behaviours is essential to achieve this.

"We now set out in further detail the specific financial packages which need to be provided to local areas under these restrictions in order to tackle the virus and to protect jobs and the economy.

"Local Councils have a crucial role to play in tackling the virus; delivering more effective local infection control measures including deep community engagement and effective local contact tracing; building local resilience and providing proactive support to communities, businesses and the most vulnerable; reducing pressures on the NHS; continuing comprehensive support to keep schools and school travel safe; meeting demand pressures on essential local services; and working with government on innovative approaches to skills and levelling up the national economy.

"We know from our experience to date that these measures are effective in tackling the virus.

"With the infection rate rising, Government must act immediately in order to provide local areas with the resources they need to slow the spread of infection through:

  • Additional local contact tracing capacity
  • Continued additional community engagement activity with our voluntary and community sector partners
  • Additional testing routes if the national system is not able to prioritise community testing
  • Communications activity and paid advertising for target groups and geographic areas based on insight
  • Further bolstering key services to help deal with the pandemic – Public Health, Environmental Health, Infection Prevention and Control and Communications (including translation and interpretation)
  • Targeted multi-agency enforcement activity
  • Data analyst capacity to help targeting of community protection plans
  • Additional support around food parcels and other services for those self-isolating

"Our estimate is that we require around £30m across the five West Yorkshire Authorities for these health initiatives alone.

"In addition to the funding for the direct costs of Covid, we remain concerned about the pressures on local Government finances, especially for: care home resilience and viability, services to meet additional demand for children’s needs, support for economic recovery, and capacity to lead local places through concurrent events this Winter, including Brexit and weather related events.

"We therefore await further detail about the Government’s additional support package for local Government announced yesterday.

"On Friday the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a package of new business support for businesses that are legally required to close and therefore cannot trade.

"However, the furlough scheme announced remains inadequate with only two thirds of wages being paid, whilst the new measures do nothing to help businesses that are severely impacted by the new arrangements (in both Tier 2 and 3) but which can still trade.

"In particular, we know under Tier 2 restrictions that the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors and their associated supply chains (including in events industries) are likely to suffer. Around 200,000 people across West Yorkshire are employed in these industries.

"Our proposals are practical and build on the approach already taken for grants and furlough, rather than inventing new schemes. These are:

  • Enhancing the current Government grants scheme to also support businesses that are trading at lower levels or forced to close: Grants of £3k-£5k for every 3-week period within restrictions where loss of income of more than 25% is evidenced. Businesses in scope should include Retail, Leisure & Hospitality and relevant supply chains;
  • Adapting and deepening the Job Retention Scheme to protect jobs to the same level as the original lockdown and making sure affected self-employed also have support (whilst restrictions are in place);
  • Enhancing the COVID-19 Recovery Grants scheme to support adaptation to new rules (one-off £3.7m for WY) to support businesses for reopening / adapting.

"As set out in our previous letter, we intend to retain the unspent amounts of Government grant already issued to local authorities (£47.15m) so that we can begin to implement the above health and business support measures with immediate effect.

"We would welcome an invitation to a meeting with Ministers to discuss this essential funding needed for Tier 2 as soon as possible if we are to reduce infection rates and limit the economic damage from COVID-19."