A DEMAND has been made for more instant funds to help North-East authorities control Covid outbreaks and to prevent a costly escalation to Tier 3 rules.
The North East England Chamber of Commerce has asked for immediate government funding and resources in a letter to Ministers sent this week.
In the letter, Chamber chief executive James Ramsbotham writes: “While we acknowledge the recent changes to business support schemes, no amount of funding can fully prevent the harm that would be caused by mandatory closures under Tier 3.
"With case numbers appearing to stabilise, we have a moment of opportunity to get this crisis under control.
He stressed the need for immediate resources to tackle local outbreaks and prevent escalation of the pandemic.
He said: “Local authorities in our region have worked tirelessly to tackle Covid and demonstrated huge initiative in engaging government early to discuss public health restrictions.
"We have also worked closely with them to provide reassurance and guidance to our businesses.
"For their part, businesses have done everything possible to make their environments safe for both staff and customers, often at huge expense.”
Mr Ramsbotham believes the solution for tackling Covid-19 is more regional autonomy, saying that blanket national policies are no substitute for local knowledge and control.
He said: "Test and Trace is failing to deliver at a local level and it is ludicrous that further support to control outbreaks and establish local contact tracing is tied to a move into Tier 3.
“We therefore ask that you engage immediately with political and business leaders across the North-East and provide all the resources required to address local outbreaks, vastly improve test and trace provision and prevent business closures.”
Cllr Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said: “We very much welcome this letter from the North East England Chamber of Commerce and its call for the government to provide extra support and resources.
“We fully appreciate the concerns of businesses over the impact of enforced closures under Tier 3 restrictions and will continue to make the case alongside other North East councils for our local authority areas to remain in Tier 2.
“We have worked tirelessly to process business support grants to allow companies to benefit as quickly as possible, with 9,500 paid out totalling £104m.
"Our lobbying for an extension of support grants contributed to the Chancellor’s announcement last week of additional support for businesses in Tier 2; and we will continue to press the government for increased financial support for firms.
“We will also continue to push for additional resources to help us manage the pandemic – with the costs and lost income from coronavirus in County Durham exceeding the government funding so far provided; and for local control of test and trace.”