Today, it has been announced that, on Saturday 24 October, Sheffield will enter Tier 3, the ‘very high’ alert level for coronavirus restrictions. This is a serious moment for our city. We need to pull together to bear down on this virus and, in Parliament, Labour will be pushing to make sure that incomes are protected.
Today in Parliament, Labour will force a vote in the House of Commons demanding that the government delivers a fair deal for communities like ours. The government must ensure that workers who are facing hardship under local restrictions receive at least 80% of their previous incomes, with minimum wage protection for the lowest paid.
The new restrictions mean:
- People must not socialise with anybody they do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events
- People must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue
- All pubs and bars must close, unless they are serving substantial meals
- People should try to avoid travelling outside the Very High alert level or entering a Very High alert level area, other than for work, education or for caring responsibilities or to travel through as part of a longer journey
- Residents should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK, and others should avoid staying overnight in the Very High alert area
In addition, the following restrictions will also apply in South Yorkshire:
- Additional closures will include: Betting shops, adult gaming centres, casinos and soft play centres.
- Gym classes will not be allowed and social distancing guidelines should be followed between people from different households (but gyms will remain open).
The Mayor for Sheffield City Region, Dan Jarvis, has been able to secure a funding deal from the government worth £41 million. £30 million will be used to support the region’s businesses and £11m will be given to local authorities to support public health measures, such as Test and Trace, to stop the spread of the virus
This additional funding will provide much-needed extra support for businesses and to fix track and trace. But the reality is the Government’s pitiful job support scheme risks hardship for many in our city and across the North over the coming weeks.
With the new restrictions causing some businesses to close, many workers in Sheffield will be forced to survive on just two-thirds of their normal wages. Ministers need to wake-up and ask themselves how they expect the lowest paid to live on two thirds of their income. While these workers’ wages will be cut by a third, their bills and rent will not.
Over the course of their negotiations with the government, Sheffield City Council pushed for a more generous funding package that could properly support the lowest-paid in our city but, disgracefully, Ministers refused. This is simply wrong, and the government must think again.
Those of us who lived in South Yorkshire during the 1980s saw the Tory government wage war on Northern workers and Northern communities. Now, a new another generation of Tory Ministers is treating the North with similar contempt – denying our communities the money we need to survive, while pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into the likes of Serco. It is clear where the Tories’ sympathies lie, and it is not with working people.
As we enter this new period of restrictions, I will continue to speak out on behalf of our community and do everything I can to ensure that our area gets the support it needs to weather the pandemic.