Labour accuses government of 'betraying' voters in deprived Tier 3 areas

30 November 2020, 23:29

Labour's Lucy Powell has accused the government of betraying some of England's most deprived areas
Labour's Lucy Powell has accused the government of betraying some of England's most deprived areas. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Labour has accused the government of "betraying" voters in deprived Tier 3 areas by offering their businesses less cash support than firms in wealthier areas.

Affluent regions in Tier 1 have received more or as much money from the government's business grant scheme than deprived areas or those facing Tier 3 restrictions, according to Labour analysis.

The scheme was designed to help people through recent restrictions that are set to come to an end on 2 December.

Labour claimed the Additional Restrictions Grant - a one-off £20 per-head payment to local authorities during England's November lockdown - failed to consider an area's deprivation level or for how long business owners have had tough coronavirus measures imposed.

Last week, the government confirmed that 99 per cent of England would enter Tiers 2 and 3 when the lockdown ends, which will see tight restrictions kept in place for bars and restaurants and a ban on households mixing indoors.

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The opposition party's analysis suggests that Tier 2-bound Manchester City Council - ranked England's third-most deprived area in data collated by the House of Commons Library - received the same amount of funding as Cornwall, ranked 142 in the same chart and due to be in Tier 1.

Greater Manchester has been subject to some form of additional Covid-19 restrictions since the summer and was forced into Tier 3 following a lengthy wrangle between mayor Andy Burnham and ministers before the current lockdown began.

Blackpool, ranked the most deprived area in the country and also facing Tier 3 measures, has received less financial support from the scheme than South Oxfordshire, which is set for Tier 2 and ranked 450 on the deprivation index, said Labour.

According to figures supplied by the government, Blackpool has received £2,788,920, while South Oxfordshire was granted £2,841,140.

The Tier 3-bound Nottinghamshire areas of Ashfield and Bassetlaw - ranked 111th and 182nd respectively, and both snatched from Labour by the Tories at the last election - were given less than Elmbridge in Surrey, which is ranked 460 and heading for Tier 2.

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Shadow business minister Lucy Powell said: "The Tories' approach betrays some of the most deprived communities under the toughest restrictions and does not recognise the additional pressures that many areas face.

"It can't be right that richer areas in Tier 1 or Tier 2 receive the same funding as those most in need of extra help.

"Rather than widen regional disparities, and level down the country, the Chancellor (Rishi Sunak) should review this fund and ensure it works for those with additional needs because they have been in lockdown for longer."

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi - newly-appointed as the minister in charge of the Covid-19 vaccine roll out - said areas which were placed in Tier 3 before the second lockdown had been given bespoke financial support packages at the time.

Answering a written question from Ms Powell earlier this month, Mr Zahawi said: "Areas that went into the local Covid alert level at 'Very High', prior to national restrictions, received aggregate sums at city-region level.

"These sums vary slightly from the Additional Restrictions Grant and, where this was under the £20 per head rate, we have topped up the funding."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: "This analysis is misleading and fails to take into account a host of other support measures that we have made available, including grants of up to £3,000 for businesses that are required to close due to Tier 3 restrictions.

"We understand the pressure businesses are currently under and have acted to support them through the pandemic with a £280 billion support package, which is among the most generous in the world."

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