Milton Keynes Labour is calling on the government to give Milton Keynes more access to vaccines and extra business support as part of its plan to reduce Covid rates in the city.
The Leader of Labour-led Milton Keynes Council, Cllr Peter Marland, has today written to the Secretary of State for Local Government to request extra financial assistance for businesses, including more funding for the self-employed, cultural, hospitality and leisure sectors. He is also asking that Milton Keynes is given more access to the current vaccine and that the government agrees to a council-led mass vaccination centre in the new year.
Cllr Marland also requested extra support and employment protection for people required to self-isolate, and at least an extra week of school closures for secondary schools at the end of the Christmas holidays to reduce the explosion of cases linked with education, with national media reporting the new strain could be spreading more quickly in children.
As part of MK Labour’s action plan to tackle Covid rates in the city, Cllr Marland has requested:
- Extra financial support for individuals impacted by the economic distress caused by the restrictions put in place, especially those on a low income and the self-employed.
- More support for businesses impacted by the restrictions that have been imposed, in particular cultural venues, leisure providers and the hospitality sector.
- Extra flexible funding for the local authority to be able to help local residents with support services and discretionary welfare support.
- A clear and expanded financial package to encourage people to self-isolate and break the chain of infection. The current system is not working, and people feel they must choose between doing the right thing and paying their bills. The current statutory sick pay system is not enough and too few people are entitled to the £500 self-isolation payment.
- More local authority control of community vaccination roll-out, including enhanced access to the current vaccination for Milton Keynes now and agreement for a local authority co-ordinated mass vaccination centre on approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
- Clear and unambiguous protection for employees who self-isolate from inappropriate retaliation from employers, as some employers are insisting that people required to self-isolate return to work or risk losing their jobs. Extra legal protection for these employees should be put in place.
- More advice on the new strain of the virus as MK Council has had no information on the issue beyond media reports.
- Closure of schools for at least an extra week after the normal Christmas holiday in order to break the chain of transmission, with exceptions for key workers and vulnerable children.
- Extra enforcement powers for the local authority to issue substantial spot fines to individuals for breaking Covid-19 restrictions in public places and to restore public confidence in the system.
Cllr Peter Marland said: “The infection rate in Milton Keynes is very serious. It is right that we have been placed into Tier 4. However, since the announcement we have heard nothing from the government. It’s unacceptable. Our businesses need more support to survive, we need more access to vaccines and we need more action to break the chain of transmission. Our plan will help all three.”
He continued: “We have already started our planning for a mass vaccination centre in Milton Keynes and we want the government to agree that as the local authority we should lead the co-ordination of that roll-out to ensure it reaches more people as quickly as possible. I also want more vaccines today, as it seems a Tier 4 area should get more priority than those in Tier 1 or Tier 2. We’d like more powers to enforce the rules and the ability to issue bigger on the spot fines to people who break them, like not wearing masks in public without a good reason. Our schools have also seen an explosion in the number of cases, and that needs to be stopped, and I think sensible action is needed after Christmas to prevent even more disruption early in the new year. The current system of self-isolation support is clearly not enough and needs to be improved so people stay home when they should, without the fear of financial ruin or losing their job.”
He concluded: “I hope the government listen. I fear if they don’t not only will our infection rates continue to be high but the damage to our economy will be huge. Our plan is simple – financial support for those hit hardest, action to stop the spread and vaccines as quickly as possible.”