The Sheffield city region mayor has said he will not hesitate to seek additional government support for South Yorkshire after the region entered the strictest tier 3 coronavirus controls.
Dan Jarvis, who is also the MP for Barnsley Central, said he had spoken to Boris Johnson this week and told him the £41m funding package did not represent “the end of the discussion” and that he would review the situation in the coming weeks.
“If I think there’s a requirement to go back to government with a further list of support then I will,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The scale of the challenge is very significant. We are acutely aware of the pressures our NHS is under, not least because winter hasn’t bitten yet, so we are looking very carefully at what we need to do.
“But if there is a requirement for more resource, whether it is economic support or it is other measures of assistance from the government, I won’t hesitate to go back and ask for them.”
There were reports that Jarvis had asked for £90m, but he said he did not recognise the figure. “We engaged in a tough process of negotiation with the government; of course I wanted more money than I secured. But we secured more money than originally the government were offering.”
He said an agreement to keep it under review was secured with the government, which is committed to levelling up the country. “There is a real risk that the levelling up agenda will be derailed. The north has been hit disproportionately hard by this pandemic because of existing fragilities in our economy and society.”
In response to claims from the Sheffield council leader, Julie Dore, that the behind-closed-doors negotiations had been a charade because of alleged Tory bias towards the south, Jarvis said: “I did it my way … I have to weigh a number of factors, not least the fact there is a comprehensive spending review around the corner.”
In an open letter to residents on Friday, he acknowledged that the “weariness” with which many will have received the news of entering the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
“Some of you will be wondering if these measures are worth it,” he wrote. “Those feelings are understandable. But we should be under no illusions. These measures are needed. The scientific advice is that they can help. We still have a difficult path ahead, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. These restrictions will help us reach it sooner, and at a lower cost.”
It comes as the north’s three most senior bishops said Johnson’s approach to Covid-19 risked dividing the nation and causing a generation of “disillusion and unrest” among younger people.
They said the social consequences of a lack of collaboration between Westminster and regional leaders, coupled with lockdown without adequate economic support, could be more dangerous and destabilising than the virus itself.
“A divided nation where one section of society, generally wealthy, generally living in the south, is able to screen itself more effectively from coronavirus and get through to the other side of this pandemic, and another section of society, generally poorer, generally in the north, suffers greatly,” said the archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, the bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, and the bishop of Manchester David Walker.
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