Leeds news LIVE: Northern leaders call for more cash to cope with looming lockdowns

Welcome to the Yorkshire Evening Post's live blog.

By Joe Cooper
Saturday, 10th October 2020, 3:26 pm
Updated Saturday, 10th October 2020, 3:30 pm

Scroll down for updates.

Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis.

Leeds news LIVE: Boris Johnson set to announce new coronavirus restrictions tomorrow

Last updated: Thursday, 08 October, 2020, 08:34

  • New tiered Covid restrictons to be unveiled by Johnson on Monday
  • Northern leaders call for more cash to cope with looming lockdowns

New tiered Covid restrictions to be unveiled by Johnson on Monday

A new three-tiered system of coronavirus restrictions will be outlined by Boris Johnson on Monday as stringent measures are expected to cause pubs and restaurants to shut across the north of England.

Mr Johnson will reveal the full details of the much-anticipated approach in a statement to the House of Commons, following criticism of the Government for not keeping MPs properly informed of changes.

The news comes after the Prime Minister’s chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister wrote to northern MPs following a meeting with leaders from the North on Friday to warn them it was “very likely” the region would be hit with tougher rules.

The Government moved to pave the way for tough new restrictions by saying workers in pubs, restaurants and other businesses which are forced to close will have two thirds of their wages paid by Whitehall in a financial scheme announced by the Chancellor earlier on Friday.

Rishi Sunak said the expansion of the Job Support Scheme would protect jobs and provide “reassurance and a safety net” for people and businesses across the UK in advance of a potentially “difficult winter”.

In the letter to northern MPs Sir Edward stated that “The rising incidence in parts of the country mean that it is very likely that certain local areas will face further restrictions.”

He added: “The Government will discuss a set of measures with local leaders all of which present difficult choices.”

Talks are to continue over the weekend.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions: “Our approach… will be to have simple national rules, some basic rules to be implemented where the rate of infection rises in a concerning way in a particular place, but then also greater freedom for those local areas to design further measures, in conjunction with ourselves.”

After a meeting with Government officials, leaders of West Yorkshire councils wrote a joint letter to the Chancellor stating: “We are concerned by rumours in the media that we might be pushed into Level 3 of a new system set to be introduced, without any discussion or consultation, or without adequate economic measures put in place to support affected people and businesses.

“Another lockdown will have a devastating effect on our town and city centres and the overall regional economy. It will result in a levelling down of our region and undo the good work we have done over the last decade to improve the fortunes of our people.”

The moves came as a further 13,864 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were reported on Friday, and 87 more deaths were confirmed of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Nottingham has the highest rate in England, with 760.6 cases per 100,000 people – a huge jump from 158.3 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 29.

Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has leapt from 391.1 to 657.6 per 100,000, while Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has also increased sharply, from 419.0 to 599.9.

Separate figures suggested coronavirus cases are doubling about twice as fast in the North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands as for the whole of England.

Mr Sunak insisted that the new support was “very different” to furlough, which he previously declined to extend – arguing it was “fundamentally wrong” to hold people in jobs that only existed inside the scheme.

But mayors from the north of England said the new measures appeared not to go “far enough” to prevent “genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter”.

The support, which launches on November 1 and lasts for six months, will see the Government pay two thirds of each employee’s salary – up to a maximum of £2,100 a month – if their employer is legally required to close their premises because of restrictions.

Businesses will be able to claim the grant when they are subject to restrictions and employees are off work for at least seven consecutive days. Venues which are already legally closed, such as nightclubs, will also be eligible.

Employers will not be required to contribute towards wages, but will be asked to cover national insurance and pension contributions.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll, mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis and mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram used a joint statement to warn the help may not be enough.

Government announces new pub and restaurant furlough scheme

The Government will pay two thirds of the wages of staff in pubs, restaurants and other businesses if they are forced to close under new coronavirus restrictions, the Chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak said the expansion of the Jobs Support Scheme would protect jobs and provide “reassurance and a safety net” for people and businesses across the UK in advance of a potentially “difficult winter”.

It comes as ministers are expected to outline a three-tier local lockdown system on Monday, which could see hospitality venues in coronavirus hotspots being temporarily closed to combat the spread of the virus.

Firms whose premises are legally required to close because of restrictions will receive grants to pay the wages of staff who cannot work, with the Government paying two thirds of each employee’s salary (67%) up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.

Employers will not be required to contribute towards wages, but will be asked to cover national insurance and pension contributions.

Businesses will be able to claim the grant when they are subject to restrictions and employees are off work for at least seven consecutive days.

The scheme will launch on November 1 and run for six months, with a review in January.

Businesses which are already legally closed, such as nightclubs, will also be eligible.

A Treasury source said the expanded Jobs Support Scheme would cost “hundreds of millions” of pounds a month.

Ministers will also increase cash grants to businesses in England which are forced to close to support with fixed costs, with the grants linked to rateable values.

Up to £3,000 per month will be payable every fortnight, the Treasury said.

Mr Sunak told reporters: “Throughout this crisis my priority has always been to protect jobs so today I’m announcing an expansion of our Jobs Support Scheme, specifically to protect those jobs of people who work in businesses who may be asked to close.

“If that happens those workers will receive two thirds of their wages for the time that they’re unable to go to work.

“I hope this provides reassurance and a safety net for people and businesses in advance of what may be a difficult winter.”

The Chancellor denied that it was just a rebranded furlough scheme, which he previously declined to extend arguing it was “fundamentally wrong” to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the scheme.

He said: “This is a very different scheme to what we’ve had before.

“This is not a universal approach, this is an expansion of the Jobs Support Scheme specifically for those people who are in businesses that will be formally or legally asked to close so in that sense it’s very different.

“I’ve always said that we will adapt and evolve our response as the situation on the health side adapts and evolves.

“That’s what’s happening.

“I think that’s the pragmatic and right thing to do.”

However, the new support is less generous than the furlough scheme, which paid 80% of millions of workers’ wages and warded off larger levels of job losses.

It ends this month and will be replaced by the less generous Jobs Support Scheme, where the Government will pay up to 22% of wages for workers who come back part-time.

New job support scheme to be announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce further support for jobs and businesses that are affected by coronavirus shutdowns amid calls to help the hardest hit industries and regions.

Mr Sunak will detail “the next stage” of the Jobs Support Scheme on Friday, ahead of new restrictions expected for the hospitality sector.

Cities in northern England and other areas suffering a surge in Covid-19 cases may have pubs and restaurants temporarily closed to combat the spread of the virus.

Regional leaders and unions have been calling for fresh financial support to prevent further layoffs when new restrictions are imposed.

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “The Chancellor will be setting out the next stage of the Job Support Scheme later today that will protect jobs and provide a safety net for those businesses that may have to close in the coming weeks and months.”

The announcement will come as new figures showed the pace of the UK’s economic recovery has slowed considerably, with GDP up 2.1% in August, less than half of what experts had expected.

Sources were saying it was wrong to describe the new package as a local furlough scheme, which some have called for the Government to develop.

The furlough scheme, which has supported millions of workers and warded off larger levels of job losses, will cease at the end of the month.

It will be replaced by the less generous Jobs Support Scheme, where the Government will pay up to 22% of wages for workers who come back part-time.

Ministers are expected to outline a three-tier local lockdown system on Monday, which may see high-risk individuals told to stay at home for months and fresh measures for businesses.

There are particular concerns for the hospitality sector, as it faces new restrictions with data indicating it is linked to a significant number of transmissions.

Chief medical officer for England Chris Whitty on Thursday briefed MPs representing constituencies in northern England and the Midlands, where infection rates are at their highest.

He showed them evidence that 30% of infections are coming from hospitality settings, including restaurants, bars and cafes, according to business minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: “It is only right that we take action with the local leadership, with public health local teams, because they know their area best.”

MPs were also led to believe that the NHS may not cope if case numbers continued to rise in their areas.

Skills minister Gillian Keegan told BBC Question Time: “This is serious, it is getting out of control, and we have to do something to bring it back under control.”

Among the regional leaders criticising the Government for failing to consult them on changes is Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who said he would challenge any closures.

“I will use whatever means I can to challenge it to get support for people because otherwise they are going to suffer real hardship this winter, we are going to see businesses failing,” he told Question Time.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, writing in the Daily Telegraph, said the Government had “lost control of the virus” and urged ministers to “get a grip”.

He wrote: “It was an act of gross irresponsibility for anonymous Number 10 sources to tell a few newspapers on Thursday about plans to impose further restrictions on millions of people, without any detail, without any consultation and without any statement from the Prime Minister.

“This has significantly added to the sense of confusion, chaos and unfairness in the approach that is being taken.”

Mr Zahawi insisted newspapers were learning the details through “leaks” and promised that no ministers were briefing out the details, or instructing their staff to do so.

“This is really bad that people are leaking this stuff and I hope that whoever’s doing this will stop because actually it’s counterproductive, it’s confusing and it’s corrosive,” he told Breakfast.

New restrictions on Scotland’s pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes come into force from 6pm on Friday.

Across most of the country venues will only be allowed to operate indoors between 6am and 6pm and not serve alcohol, but they will be able to sell drinks until 10pm in outside areas.

However, pubs and licensed restaurants in five health board areas across the central belt will be forced to close for 16 days as of Friday evening.

Establishments in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley can only provide takeaways during this time with the temporary measures set to end on October 25.

Leeds Council joins bars across city to urge government to scrap "devastating" 10pm curfew

Leeds Council has joined forces with bars and restaurants across the city to call on the Government to scrap the "devastating" 10pm curfew.

The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, warns that "thousands of jobs" are at risk due to the restrictions.

It also raises serious concerns about the survival of local businesses and the "severe" impact on the local economy.

Mayor of Manchester says there was not consultation with local leaders

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham tweeted: “The first time I heard that all bars and restaurants across the North are to close was when I read it in The Times.

“I’ve had two meetings with Cabinet Ministers this week along with other Mayors and it wasn’t mentioned once.”

Greater Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham hit out at the way the Government is bringing in its latest coronavirus restrictions, insisting there was not enough consultation with local leaders, telling the BBC: “What they are doing is imposing rather than negotiating.

“And there is a very big difference between those two things when we know millions of people’s lives will be affected by these things.”

“We are currently considering what steps we should take"

 The Housing Secretary has refused to say whether pubs and restaurants in parts of northern England will be forced to close due to an increase in coronavirus cases.

Ministers were said to be considering the new measures, according to media reports, as infection rates continue to soar in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. 

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Robert Jenrick said “it was not sensible” for him to speculate about the possible measures, despite being repeatedly asked. 

He said: “It is correct to say the number of cases in the North West and the North East and a number of cities, particularly in the Midlands like Nottingham, are rising fast and that is a serious situation. 

“We are currently considering what steps we should take, obviously taking the advice of our scientific and medical advisers, and a decision will be made shortly. “But I’m not able to give you right now exactly what is going to happen.” 

Asked if there will be an announcement linked to the hospitality trade next week, 

Mr Jenrick said: “We are considering the evidence. In some parts of the country, the number of cases are rising very fast and we are taking that very seriously. 

“If we do have to take further steps, then obviously we will take very seriously how we can help and support those individual businesses.”

The number of people with coronavirus receiving intensive care in hospital is “really worrying”:

 The number of people with coronavirus receiving intensive care in hospital is “really worrying”, the chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said.

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 over the past month has increased from a “few hundred people per day” to “thousands”. 

She said: “So right now, we have got over 3,100 people in hospital with coronavirus around the UK. Actually 500 of those are in ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit) beds, that’s really worrying. 

“A month ago we only had 60 people in the whole of the UK in ITU beds. “So we are seeing a very worrying trend at the moment.”

What you might have missed:

Pubs and restaurants could shut as early as Monday in coronavirus crackdown:

 Swathes of northern England are facing the prospect of tough new coronavirus restrictions – including the possible closure of pubs and restaurants – amid fears the disease is spiralling out of control.

Ministers were said to be considering the new measures, which could come as early as Monday, according to media reports, as infection rates continue to soar in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. 

The move, if confirmed, would be another body blow for the hard-pressed hospitality industry in the regions already reeling from the imposition of the controversial 10pm curfew. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is finalising a package of financial support for the sector, the Financial Times reported, amid fears of a fresh wave of job losses. 

Downing Street and the Department of Health and Social Care both declined to comment on the reports. 

However Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham reacted angrily, tweeting: “No discussion. No consultation. Millions of lives affected by Whitehall diktat. It is proving impossible to deal with this Government.” 

Tory backbenchers warned MPs must be given a vote before any such measures are brought into force in line with assurances given last week by Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Mr Hancock appeared to signal there would be dark days ahead for the sector during a conference call with the Confederation of British Industry on Wednesday. 

“Outside your household and socialising between households, the highest place of incidence of likely transmission – measured by where people have contacts – is unfortunately hospitality,” the Daily Express quoted Mr Hancock as saying. 

“Now obviously that finding is not good news in terms of the policy action we have to take for that sector,” he added. 

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone told BBC2’s Newsnight: “If it is put into place and I have no power to stop it the Government will have gone back on the word they gave to Parliament when they said all major new powers and regulations would be debated in Parliament.” 

Meanwhile MPs on the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee have announced that they are launching an inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic. The latest moves come after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a further tightening of restrictions in Scotland from 6pm on Friday. 

Under the new rules, indoor hospitality venues will only be allowed to operate between 6am and 6pm daily, selling food and non-alcoholic drinks only, while outdoor bars will be allowed to serve alcohol until 10pm. 

In the five regions with the highest number of cases – including Glasgow and Edinburgh – licensed premises will have to shut for a 16-day period, although they can offer takeaway services. 

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon warned that without the “short, sharp” package of measures, the disease could be “out of control” by the end of the month. 

In England, Nottingham looks set to be the latest area to face new restrictions following a surge in infections. The prospect of new measures comes amid growing unrest over the existing controls – including among Conservative MPs. Tory rebels are threatening to try to overturn the 10pm curfew in an expected Commons vote next week, amid claims that it is proving counterproductive in health terms while further damaging the already weakened economy. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer challenged Boris Johnson to produce the science behind the curfew, raising the prospect of a Government defeat if Labour joins the rebels in the division lobbies. 

The Labour leader has also backed calls by northern city leaders for the Government to pass control of the test and trace system to local authorities. 

The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle city councils joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson in writing to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to warn the current measures were “not working”. 

Sir Keir said that of the 20 areas which had come under local restrictions in the past two months, 19 had seen rising infections. 

“Simply pretending there isn’t a problem is part of the problem,” he said. “In the end, the only way through this is to have a test, trace and isolate system that actually works because that provides you with the intelligence that tells you what measures are actually working.” 

The latest official figures showed that as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 14,162 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and that a further 70 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19. 

In the Commons, Mr Johnson acknowledged that cases were rising – not just in northern England – and called for a “concerted national effort” to combat the virus. “I wish I could pretend that everything was going to be rosy in the Midlands or indeed in London where, alas, we are also seeing infections rise,” he told MPs. “That is why we need a concerted national effort, we need to follow the guidance.” His words were echoed in an interview Mr Hancock gave the Express, where he said “we must not let up, we must continue to show our determination and together we will crack this”. 

Meanwhile, the continuing economic damage was underlined by the announcement by Greene King that it is shutting dozens of pubs with the loss of 800 jobs, due to the “continued tightening of trading restrictions” in response to the pandemic.

 Local lockdown restrictions are “not working”, confusing and even “counter-productive”, leaders of northern cities have warned as the rate of coronavirus cases almost doubled in a week.

Leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds warned Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they would not support further “economic lockdowns” and called for new powers to tackle the resurgence. 

Professor John Edmunds, who is advising the Government’s coronavirus response, joined the criticism of local measures on Tuesday and said new national restrictions were needed immediately. 

The calls came as the UK-wide seven-day rate increased to 125.7 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people from 63.8 a week ago, according to analysis by the PA news agency. 

The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle city councils – Judith Blake, Sir Richard Leese and Nick Forbes – joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to write to the Health Secretary to say they are “extremely concerned” with the rise in cases. 

“The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive,” the Labour politicians wrote. 

They called for additional powers to punish those who break rules, for new restrictions to be developed by police, council and public health experts and for a locally-controlled test and trace system. 

“We want to be clear however that we do not support further economic lockdowns,” the leaders added. 

Professor Edmunds, who sits on the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), agreed local measures had failed and said more stringent lockdown restrictions are needed to bring the pandemic under control.

Page 2 of 3