Cat, along with a group cross-party of MPs and council leaders has written to the Prime Minister to ensure the government focusses on creating economic incentives for residents and businesses impacted by tightened lockdown measures.
The letter is signed by the region’s four Labour MPs, Tory MP Jake Berry and the 10 council leaders from across Lancashire.
They ask Prime Minister to ensure local authorities in Lancashire are fully resourced to ensure they can continue to protect the public as without additional funding – “a sustained increase in the infection rate may result in pushing local council and NHS services to the brink once again.”
Concerns are also raised regarding the test and trace system, which is failing to keep pace with the demand, with a request for a fully resourced and localised test and trace programme across those local authorities most at risk.
The letter also asks:
What additional resources and powers do you intend to provide to local authorities in order to allow them to target measures to reduce the infection rate?
What details can be provided regarding Covid marshals?
Full text of the letter:
Dear Prime Minister
Re: COVID-19 Support for Lancashire
Over the last few weeks local leaders in Lancashire across the political spectrum have met to discuss the best way to tackle the spread of the infection across the county.
We support the announcement made by the Government to take steps to tackle the spread of the virus, and we urge the public to follow the new rules.
However, it is clear that local leaders – who are at the heart of the national effort to beat this virus – are facing a series of challenges that can only be resolved by the Government.
Principally, those concerns centre around the test and trace system, which is failing to keep pace with the demand for testing across the country, and the lack of local government funding.
1.Test and trace
Directors of Public Health in Lancashire strongly believe that a timely and robust Test and Trace programme is essential to finding cases, isolating them and disrupting the transmission of the virus.
Without an effective test and tracing system, Directors of Public Health fear our ability to control the spread and recover from the pandemic is severely hampered until there is an effective vaccine.
As Areas of Intervention and Enhanced Support, many areas in Lancashire are testing at rates well above the rest of the country. The test and trace system has not been able to keep up.
Enhanced testing for our schools, colleges, and universities, including asymptomatic testing, was agreed previously by the Government for Lancashire and should be the Government’s first priority.
We would also like to see a fully resourced and localised test and trace programme across those local authorities most at risk – namely Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Preston, Rossendale, Hyndburn, Pendle, Oldham and Bolton.
2.Local Authority funding
According to Directors of Public Health across the region, there is no evidence of transmission due to businesses re-opening or in places of worship across Lancashire. On the basis of this evidence, we believe a Bolton style lockdown of the local economy will currently do more harm than good to the health of our local residents.
Instead, we would urge the Government to focus on supporting residents and businesses by creating the right economic incentives to remain COVID secure. This includes ensuring that people that need to self-isolate and businesses that are required to close get the support they need.
Though welcome, the funding settlements local authorities have received simply have not covered their costs. Local authorities across Lancashire are doing the best they can, but desperately need clarity about the financial support available to them to fund the infection control work on the ground.
Without adequate support for local authorities, we fear that a sustained increase in the infection rate may result in pushing local council and NHS services to the brink once again. Lancashire is a region of high deprivation that also needs a long-term strategy to address the underlying structural, housing and health inequalities.
The Government has also made it clear that enforcement is a key strand of its strategy to manage this virus. The Government is yet to announce the detail surrounding COVID Marshals, and we would welcome guidance as soon as possible.
While councils support the policy in principle, the Government needs to ensure that additional funding for the employment and training of COVID Marshals is forthcoming. Without it, many councils will not be able to field Marshals to enforce new guidance.
As elected representatives across Lancashire, we cannot impress strongly enough upon you how important it is that local authorities have the resources and support they need to play their role in protecting public health.
What additional resources do you intend to provide to local authorities in order to allow them to target measures to reduce the infection rate?
We welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you at the earliest opportunity.
MP for Blackburn
MP for West Lancashire
MP for Rossendale and Darwen
MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood
Cllr Matthew Brown
Leader of Preston City Council
Cllr Mohammed Iqbal
Leader of Pendle Borough Council
Cllr Miles Parkinson OBE
Leader of Hyndburn Borough Council
Cllr Charlie Briggs
Leader of Burnley Borough Council
Sir Mark Hendrick
MP for Preston
Cllr Mohammed Khan
Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council
Cllr Alyson Barnes
Leader of Rossendale Borough Council
Cllr Erica Lewis
Leader of Lancaster City Council
Cllr Ian Moran
Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council