As their boroughs moved into the highest tier of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, Cllrs Jack Hopkins and Keiron Williams have urged the Prime Minister to provide extra help for individuals and businesses that will bear the brunt of the changes.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, sent after both councils were placed in Tier 3 late last week, they set out a series of urgent priorities, including full sick pay, Universal Credit and Local Housing Allowance, and additional support for businesses – particularly those in the hospitality, leisure, accommodation, arts and culture sectors.
The need for immediate action was intensified by the decision to impose the tougher new Tier 4 restrictions on all of London over the weekend.
“As you know, infection rates are now rapidly rising across London, and again we support these further measures to protect people, as we have previously done throughout this crisis when the scientific and public health advice has called for them, the leaders said in their letter to the PM, which was also sent to every home in their boroughs. “Indeed, too often we have seen government act too slowly to bring in measures, despite our calls for more robust and direct action.
“Central to ensuring that people stay at home, avoid household mixing and maintain public health practices is guaranteeing that our residents have the necessary resources and support to deal with the effects of this pandemic.”
Cllr Hopkins and Williams added: “The economic impact of Tier 4 on London are seismic – and in particular, we have heard from local businesses in the hospitality sector who had already purchased stock for the Christmas period, who now face the double whammy of closure and costs already invested after months of hardship.
“There must be recognition that when special circumstances are forced on businesses, that they are compensated fully for that.”
The letter called on the Government to ease the pressure on residents by:
- Ensuring that all workers who are required to self-isolate receive full pay, not just statutory sick pay.
- Maintaining the uplifted rate in Universal Credit.
- Immediately increasing Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates and scrap the benefit cap, so renters who lose their job due to Covid are not left at immediate risk of homelessness.
They also said the government must help businesses by introducing a compensation scheme for all lost income for the crucial festive period, extending the business rates relief period beyond next March, and not ruling out a further extension to the furlough scheme.
The leaders said: “This is a pivotal moment in the crisis and one that must be matched with equitable financial support for residents and businesses. Many who have diligently abided by the rules are now exhausted and feel let down, while many others can be persuaded to stick to the restrictions if they know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“We need to replicate the solidarity and support that was shown across Lambeth and Southwark when this crisis started, and see that matched with the economic support necessary to get through the winter months and to build a recovery that works for everyone.”
Read the full, three-page letter sent by Cllr Hopkins and Cllr Williams to the Prime Minister.Leaders PM Letter 2020