Government economic support for Leicester businesses unfair and not enough
By Claudia Webbe MP
The Leicester East MP’s latest in the House Column
The Government’s’ treatment of Leicester, as well as regions in the North and Midlands, has been nothing short of a disgrace during recent weeks.
It has sacrificed areas of the UK, including Leicester, Greater Manchester, and Newcastle, on the altar of a false, ideologically-driven understanding of the national economy – without providing anywhere near adequate support to protect lives and livelihoods.
Those of us in Leicester know only too well the consequences of this Government’s miserly support packages. Leicester has been under localised restrictions longer than any other area in the UK – a total of 126 days at the time of writing.
Yet when this began in July, Leicester City Council had to fight for nearly a month to receive just £2.6 million extra to support businesses and jobs – which is only around a quarter of what that city council believed was needed.
Despite being in lockdown for the longest period, this is considerably less than other parts of the country.
Manchester was recently able to negotiate a £60 million support package for businesses, whilst Liverpool, Lancashire and South
Yorkshire has received £30 million each.
This is despite these areas being placed under less strict restrictions than Leicester had been subject to.
This is yet another disgraceful attempt from this government to divide communities against each other.
It is crucial that every area of the UK, including Leicester, receives the support we need during this unprecedented crisis.
That means the government must provide Leicester with backdated economic support that is commensurate with other areas of the country.
What makes this lack of support even more disgraceful, is the billions that the Government has been willing to pay to private companies to oversee the disastrous track and trace system.
The £3 million in support offered to Leicester and Oadby and Wigston in July was equal to £7.30 per person.
This £7.30 per person is, literally, one thousand times less than the government is paying top consultancy executives for a single day’s work.
This demonstrates the flawed priorities of our government, as they are happy to spend tens of millions to enrich private companies – yet are leaving struggling families to sink or swim.
The government have also spent £12 billion pounds on a failed test and trace programme which prioritises the enrichment of private corporations over the protection of our communities.
This has had a devastating impact on the spread of the virus in Leicester.
In one recent week the success rate of Leicester’s privatised contact system was just 55.5 per cent – and this had decreased by more than 5 per cent on the month previously.
That means that, in one week alone, nearly 700 Leicester residents who may have been exposed to the virus were not informed, and therefore did not self-isolate.
This is a government that is frivolous when it comes to handling public money out to their friends or private companies, but penny-pinching when it comes to bailing out working people across the country.
People in Leicester and across the country cannot afford to live on two-thirds or one fifth of their pre-pandemic earnings.
Even before this crisis, more than half of the 14 million people in poverty in the UK were in-work.
Due to extortionate rents and declining living standards, the Conservatives have overseen an unacceptable breakdown in our social contract in which a job no longer provides a route out of destitution.
The number of unemployed people in Leicester has more than doubled since the start of Leicester lockdown – from 8,020 to 17,745 so far and food banks in the city reported huge rises in people seeking help to feed themselves and their families.
Across the world, countries that have pursued a zero-covid strategy are returning to normality, with all the economic benefits that bring.
A zero-covid strategy would avoid the cycle of divisive and damaging local lockdowns.
It would protect both lives and livelihoods by driving down the virus so that the economy can properly restart when it is safe to do so.
Across a recent two-week period, the UK had over 160 times the total cases of five countries – Vietnam, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and China – which have a combined population of 1.5 billion compared to the UK’s 69 million.
This is a catastrophic failure.
The government must urgently increase its economic support to Leicester.
Then it must follow the best examples set by countries across the world and adopt a zero-covid strategy, underpinned by proper economic support to all and a fully nationalised test and trace system.