By Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council
It has been another incredibly busy week in Knowsley as we continue to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic. Increasingly, we are not only responding but also taking steps towards our recovery.
As the Government begins to lift some of the restrictions, there is, as always, much work for the Council to do. The announcement that non-essential shops can soon begin to re-open means that our business support and town centre management teams are working flat out to support local companies to put in place new arrangements to comply with social distancing and other requirements. Our officers are also working on physical changes to our town centre areas to support the reopening of shops and other businesses, whilst keeping shoppers and visitors safe. And similar work is also under way in our parks and cemeteries. Of course, they are all positive and welcome steps but nonetheless it’s a lot to work through in a short space of time – I’m sure people might thing (or even expect) that local authorities are involved in planning this work and therefore have some idea of timescales, but the Government doesn’t give us any more notice of the changes to lockdown restrictions than they give to anybody else.
Just as it was when the restrictions were introduced, so it is when they are lifted, and each and every step requires action from your local Council to make it happen.
Since the start of this pandemic, we’ve followed the Government’s mantra that we must all do “whatever it takes” to get communities and businesses through this crisis. We were assured that funding to cover the cost of this would follow – but then the goalposts were moved. The estimated cost of responding to this pandemic in the Liverpool City Region is £341 million so far, and the six local authorities in the City Region have been guaranteed only £100m towards it. After 10 years of austerity – in which our region was the most affected of all – expecting us now to cover an unexpected bill of almost a quarter of a billion pounds doesn’t sound to any reasonable person like the Government doing “whatever it takes”.
This week, myself and the other leaders from across the Liverpool City Region have launched a major campaign to hold Government to their promise to support people “whatever it takes”. We aren’t going to be able to recover from this pandemic quickly while also dealing with a financial black hole of that size.
You may think that all areas of the UK are in the same boat. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. As reports in the national media over the last few weeks have testified, the Liverpool City Region is one of the hardest hit when it comes to how Government funding has been allocated. Our region has one of the highest numbers of vulnerable or “at risk” people in need of support – yet this fact is regularly taken out of the criteria used by Government to calculate its allocations. The result is that wealthier areas (many of them southern, with Tory controlled councils – coincidence?) have been given huge funding increases, whilst we have faced huge funding decreases. In fact, Knowsley was named as one of the authorities to have lost out the most in the whole country (again). As the Leader of your Council, seeing for myself the level of need we have here, that makes me angry. And I’m sure it makes you angry, too.
People living, working and doing business in our region deserve their prosperity back just as much as anyone in this country. They deserve all the same opportunities that they had before – they deserve hope, health and vibrant communities. At the moment, that’s all at stake and that’s why I and the other leaders are fighting this so hard – for all of us.
I want to specifically offer my thanks to Alan and Ann (residents from Kirkby who have been supported by our Volunteer Hub) and Marie and Sue (carers at Huyton Hey Care Home) who took time out this week to talk about their experiences to ITV News. They really helped to bring to life the challenges of people living here and also their appreciation for our efforts. Their personal experiences really helped to highlight our challenge to the media and I hope you will have seen their interviews and caught some of other media coverage of our #LCRFightsBack campaign this week – or seen something on social media.
If you want to lend your support to our region, please do so – simply like, share or tweet your own message using the hashtag #LCRFightsBack. We have to show the Government that we won’t let them forget us. We’ve also produced this video to quickly illustrate what we’re asking for, and why:
What I hope this film also illustrates is that, whilst we want to make our point in Westminster and indeed across the UK, we don’t want to undermine or disregard the resolve of our local councils, our partners, businesses and communities. We are all united in a determination to do everything we can to make sure we get the positive recovery we all want to see. Yes, we need help from Government but in the meantime we will not sit back and wait for that help with arms outstretched – that was certainly not the Knowsley way throughout 10 years of austerity and it won’t be the way now. We are doing whatever it takes, we will continue to do whatever it takes, and we know our residents are doing the same.
I am continually appreciative of the support you are providing and I can assure you that we will continue to do whatever it takes to persuade the Government to support us in doing this – just as they said they would in the first place.