“At a time of crisis, people need hope” – Mayor Anderson on Covid’s impact on Liverpool
These first seven months of the Covid-19 crisis and the consequences have hit Liverpool hard. Really hard.
Many businesses have closed and many people have lost their jobs. It’s also been a very difficult time for many families and individuals.
We are now seeing the true impact of the austerity measures, cuts to public health our NHS and local Government over the past eleven years. They’re really starting to bite and you can also see a clear correlation between the highest Covid infection areas and disadvantage.
Unfortunately, I believe things are still going to get worse.
I say this because my fears over where we are heading over the next six months are now beginning to be realised – and this really scares me.
Talks over the weekend with government have been far from ideal – especially when you feel you are not being listened to!
We need to impose restrictions to save lives. But – and this can’t be stressed enough – not without compensation to save livelihoods.
As I’ve told the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister’s office – this is going to hit my city the hardest. At precisely the worst possible time.
Liverpool. The city which has lost almost half a billion in pounds in government support since the start of the decade. The city which has already seen a 3,800% rise in unemployment in the hospitality sector compared to last year. The city which has seen more than 300 leisure and tourism relates business fold since March.
And by Christmas we could see more than 20,000 people made unemployed.
For all the talk of levelling up the North, it is now become crystal clear that is all it has been. Talk. Well, warm words is just cold comfort for a city and its citizens staring economic meltdown in the face.
People talk about us facing a winter of discontent.
My fear is that is if we don’t get the economic support package right we’re looking at a decade of despair.
And I did not get into politics to sow despair. That is why over the past 48 hours I, and the other leaders around the region, have been fighting tooth and nail to explain to Government what is at stake here.
Yes – we need to control the virus. I’ve been saying this for the past four weeks, when the figures started to show a spike. Today, the city’s infection is 608.6 per 100,000 and if we don’t limit social contact the number of infections will surpass the peak we saw in the first lockdown in April.
We also have more hospital admissions than other areas. Manchester’s Covid infections are amongst students and therefore they are not being hospitalised, our cases are ending up in hospital. And it’s not limited to a particular area. This is right across the city.
So I repeat: We need to impose restrictions to save lives. But not without compensation to save livelihoods.
The government need to honour the 80% furlough level. It is as simple as that.
Many in the hospitality sector are already on a low wage. To ask them to take 66% is an insult to those who can least afford it. And to hear that from a government which is about to rubber stamp a £3,000 a year pay rise for MPs is a just complete kick in the gut.
The economics stack up too, as to place these people on Universal Credit will actually cost more as people won’t be paying incoming tax or national insurance.
Equally, we can’t afford businesses to fold because the loss of income from business rates will push council finances over a cliff. In Liverpool, 48% of our business rates come from the hospitality sector.
That’s why I have made it absolutely clear to Government until I’m blue in the face: Lockdown yes. On the cheap. No.
We cannot work with an economic package that condems this city to a return to an ‘80s style level of unemployment.
This city has spent the past two decades reinventing itself to the point that is now one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and the most popular visitor destination outside our three capitals.
We are not prepared to throw all that progress away simply because this Government tells us “it’s not for negotiation”.
We will not accept such measures by diktat.
Interestingly, the government have woken up to the fact that test and trace is best handled at a local level, as we proved in August in Princes Park ward.
So we welcome those measures. As I do the acceptance of my suggestion for the army to help with the logistics.
I just hope the Government accepts the argument that people’s lives and livelihoods cannot be decided by a formula, cooked up by some unelected mandarins in Whitehall.
I will fight with every fibre of my being to convince them otherwise.
At a time of crisis, people need hope.
It is the best medicine those in power can supply.