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Government cash offer to South Yorkshire an "absolute disgrace"

As pubs and bars are forced to close from Saturday, the government's offer amounts to just £29.28 per person for the duration of tier 3 lockdown.

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Photo by Dan Stepinski on Unsplash.

South Yorkshire residents and politicians have described the government's offer of £41m for the entire Sheffield City Region as "paltry", "unbelievable" and an "absolute disgrace."

Mayor Dan Jarvis has agreed to the deal as South Yorkshire moves into the strictest tier 3 coronavirus lockdown.

With a population of around 1.4m in Sheffield City Region (SCR), this amounts to £29.28 per person in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster for the entire duration of the new restrictions.

The agreed package reportedly includes £30m to support businesses and £11m for enhanced test and trace provision in the region.

The £41m offer compares to:

Residents in Greater Manchester have been given even less – around £8 per person – with some claiming that this is a punishment for Mayor Andy Burnham's refusal to accept the initial offer.

Tier 3 restrictions mean people mustn't socialise indoors with anybody they don't live with or have formed a support bubble with. All pubs and bars must close unless serving "substantial meals."

In a statement announcing the £41m deal, SCR Mayor Dan Jarvis said that "inaction was not an option."

“We called on government to offer a local lockdown lifeline for our local authorities and economy, and the new restrictions will be introduced alongside resources which mean we are better equipped to control the virus and limit some of the damage on jobs and businesses," he said.

Even before the pandemic, South Yorkshire was one of the poorest areas in northern Europe. Recently released figures show that the region is poorer than anywhere in France, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

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Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis said that "inaction was not an option."

Sheffield City Region.

The government spends five times more per person on transport infrastructure in London than in Yorkshire and the Humber, despite claims that it is "levelling up" the north.

Cultural venues across the region were already in a state of emergency, which is set to be made worse by the new restrictions.

In a social media statement released yesterday, Neepsend venue Dryad Works announced that they may close for good after missing out on funding from the Cultural Recovery Fund, managed by Arts Council England.

"Over and out," said the venue founders. "Life story ABANDONED. Take from it what you will. A lot of hard work and graft has gone into everything. Its not a joke. We are devastated."

Unlike during the national lockdown, where the furlough scheme covered 80% of wages, people in South Yorkshire unable to work due to the forced closure of businesses during the tier 3 restrictions will only receive 67%.

For someone aged over 25 receiving the minimum wage, this will be £5.84 an hour. For those 18-to-20, it's just £4.32.

Sheffield was already known as the 'low pay capital' of the UK, with the Office for National Statistics recently finding that workers earn less than in any other UK city.

Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, described the government's support schemes for businesses as "pitiful", adding that they "risk hardship for many in our city and across the north over the coming weeks."

"Ministers need to wake up and ask themselves how they expect the lowest paid to live on two thirds of their income?"

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