Metro Mayor calls on Prime Minister to honour offer of support

Steve Rotheram

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stand by his offer of support to local authorities in tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to the PM he says the impact of COVID-19 is greater in the Liverpool City Region than anywhere else.

Mr Rotheram, and all political leaders across the city region, are asking for fair funding to help them avoid potentially devastating consequences for the people of Merseyside.

In his letter, backed up by a detailed paper entitled ‘The Case for the Liverpool City Region’, the collective action from local leaders warns that recovery from the local health, economic and social crisis caused by COVID-19 represents the greatest challenge the area has faced since 1945.

And while local authorities have been working round the clock to mobilise unprecedented levels of support currently needed in the region, that challenge is far from over, with the area experiencing higher than average infection and mortality rates.

Infection/mortality rates, as at May 20, showed that Merseyside had 5,049 positive diagnoses of COVID-19, a rate of 353.1 per 100,000, significantly higher than the England rate of 259 per 100,000.

Merseyside has also seen 1,332 deaths up to May 8, with 66% of deaths occurring in hospital and 34% of deaths occurring in care homes, private homes, and hospices.

Looking at the 729 deaths involving COVID-19 in Merseyside, up to April 17, Merseyside has a rate per 100,000 of 52.5, significantly higher than the England rate of 36.6 per 100,000 and the North West rate of 42.5 per 100,000.

Within Merseyside, Liverpool has the highest mortality rate from COVID-19 at 81.8 per 100,000, the highest of all of the English core cities, with Birmingham being the next highest on 77.5 per 100,000, followed by Manchester at 59.8 per 100,000.

Councils across the Liverpool City Region are spending an extra £10m a week to protect local residents and over the next six months they estimate the bill is likely to be around £341m, with the Combined Authority also losing more than £5m a week.

With only £100m allocated so far from central government, concern is growing that local authorities across the region are staring into a funding black hole of almost £250m.

Steve Rotheram said: “At the beginning of this crisis, local authorities were told by government to do ‘whatever it takes’ to support communities. That’s what we have done – and the response from our local councils has been nothing short of incredible.

“But this response comes at a cost – and the figures involved are just startling.

“This is expenditure that we haven’t made by choice, but by necessity.

“We are putting food on the table for families who would otherwise go hungry, housing the homeless, co-ordinating a massive volunteer response, supporting those who are out of work due to the crisis, supplying PPE (personal protective equipment) to our frontline workers and care homes, keeping transport running for essential journeys and doing everything we can to help local businesses stay afloat.

“For an area still fighting its way through funding cuts, whilst managing higher levels of deprivation and illness than other areas in the UK, it is a monumental task.

“Our bill to deliver all this is £341m for six months – and that’s before you even consider the prospect of a prolonged period of lockdown or, worse still, a second peak of infection.”

He added: The sums of money involved are a stark indication of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our communities.

“With a higher percentage of our population falling into the ‘at risk’ categories than in many other areas in the UK, the levels of support we’ve needed to provide have also been disproportionately higher.”

As the nation looks, hopefully, towards the recovery phase of this crisis, local leaders are warning that the city region will find it almost impossible to bounce back if its local authorities are devastated by funding deficits running into hundreds of millions and are not supported by government.

Mr Rotheram said: “The people of the Liverpool City Region are resourceful, proud and passionate. They have shown great resolve in fighting this virus and supporting each other.

“With their help and with the support of local services we have the foundations to build a positive future after this crisis, but we need help to make that happen.

“Throughout this pandemic, government has turned to local authorities and Mayoral Combined Authorities like ours to deliver on the promises it makes from Whitehall on a daily basis.

“We have done that, consistently. Now we need them to keep their promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ by giving us the funding that we need to see our people and our communities through this major global crisis.”

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