Tier Two (High Risk) Status Response from West Yorkshire Council Leaders

The Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils have set out their response to the region being place in Tier Two (High Risk) status

12 October 2020

The Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils have asked the Government for a package of support to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect jobs and businesses in line with the region’s ‘Tier Two’ (High Risk) status. 

In terms of business support, the Leaders have asked for: 

  • An enhanced Local Restrictions Support Grant providing grants of up to £5,000 every three weeks for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that have lost at least 25% of their income 
  • The continuation of furlough with Government contributing to wages - a measure that could support 113,000 jobs 
  • £3.7 million to support the expansion of the COVID Recovery Grants Scheme to support businesses to reopening and adapting 

They have also asked for £30 million to support further local targeted measures to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 virus through local contact-tracing, community engagement, enforcement, support for those self-isolating and other measures. 

Leaders also set out their commitment to retain £47 million in grants already issued, to implement local health and economic measures with immediate effect. 

In a joint statement, the Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils said: 

“Although we have avoided ‘Tier Three’ (Very High Risk) status at this moment, we are far from complacent. Efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic must be locally-led and properly funded so that we can carry out the local contact-tracing and deep community engagement that national approaches cannot deliver. 

“This must be supported by a comprehensive package of measures that sustains businesses and protects jobs until restrictions can be lifted, so that the progress we have made in improving the standards of living for our communities is not lost. 

“We need Government to urgently respond so that we can address the rising infection rates that are putting our NHS services under increasing pressure, and to avoid the additional damage to the West Yorkshire economy that would be caused by moving into “Very High” risk restrictions.” 

The letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretaries of State for Health and Housing, Communities and Local Government reads:

Dear Chancellor and Secretaries of State

Introduction of Covid Alert System and required local support

We wrote to you on Friday 9th October, 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 today, 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.

Our letter from the 9th set out the following seven actions that Government needs to take:

  1. Local Leaders must be involved in any decision
  2. Local places need to be resourced to lead the health response
  3. Government must provide sufficient support for individuals self-isolating
  4. Government must, for both Tier 2 and 3, provide sufficient economic support to impacted businesses (both those required to close and those severely affected)
  5. Government must improve monitoring and be transparent in sharing evidence, including on what leads to decisions about what levels of restrictions apply to areas
  6. Government must carry out more detailed and well-communicated forward planning
  7. Government must support our Economic Recovery Plan

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.

Additional resources to stop the spread of infection at Tier 2 (High)

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 today.

Additional support options for businesses needed in Tier 2 (High)

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.