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No extra cash for locked-down Leicester, says minister

The city became the first to be put into local lockdown after a rise in Covid-19 infections.

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A deserted Leicester city centre (Mike Egerton/PA)

A deserted Leicester city centre (Mike Egerton/PA)

A deserted Leicester city centre (Mike Egerton/PA)

There are no plans to make extra financial help available to locked-down Leicester beyond that already in place, a minister has said.

The city became the first place in the country to have tight restrictions reimposed on June 30, after a spike in Covid-19 infections.

Nadhim Zahawi, Business and Industry Minister, said there were “no plans” for any further measures, beyond those, such as furlough and business grants, put in place at the start of the pandemic.

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Nadhim Zahawi (Yui Mok/PA)

Nadhim Zahawi (Yui Mok/PA)

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Nadhim Zahawi (Yui Mok/PA)

Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West, said it was “totally unacceptable”.

Scott Knowles, chief executive of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, called it “a massive mistake”, which risked Leicester being disadvantaged by a “two-tier recovery”.

Earlier this month, Ms Kendall had written to the minister asking what extra support was being offered to Leicester.

He responded in a letter dated July 7, which Ms Kendall subsequently posted on Twitter.

In the correspondence, Mr Zahawi set out that total financial help from existing Government schemes including furlough and the support for the self employed, to the tune of £20 million, had already assisted more than 48,000 workers in the city.

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Liz Kendall (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Liz Kendall (Jonathan Brady/PA)

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Liz Kendall (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He said £68 million of grant funding had also already been funnelled to businesses through Leicester City Council, while adding the Government would work with partners to see if “additional help” was needed.

Mr Zahawi said: “The Chancellor has already said that there are no plans to change the scope or extend any of the schemes currently available.

“I hope the lockdown is temporary and that affected businesses in Leicester will be able to reopen soon.”

Ms Kendall said: “This is totally unacceptable.

“We have no idea when we are going to come out of this lockdown, but the Government has now confirmed there will be no extra financial help for our city.

“No extended support for employees on furlough, even if we are still in complete lockdown when the Government starts withdrawing the scheme.

“No extra money for businesses who are already struggling and at their wits end, forced to close their doors again or delay opening at all.

“And no extra support for the city council despite all the extra work they are doing to protect vulnerable people who are shielding, keep the homeless off the streets, and get food to people who can’t even afford to eat.

She added: “People in Leicester have already made huge sacrifices, and are going the extra mile to stay home once more, so we can get on top of this awful virus.

“They deserve better than a Government who just seems willing to leave people to fend for themselves.”

She said it was a “warning” to other area at risk of local lockdown and called on the Government to “change its course”.

Mr Knowles said: “Without further support, there will unfortunately be a greater number of business failures in organisations that, without the impact of the lockdown, would be fundamentally sound.

“Many businesses have picked themselves up again and again over recent months but given the severe cashflow restrictions many are facing, some will now question whether they are able, or indeed have the appetite, to do so again.”

He added: “The refusal from Westminster to provide any help means we now risk a two-tier recovery that risks disadvantaging Leicester, plus any other part of the country that may suffer a similar fate in the future, way beyond the actual period of the lockdown.”

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