Why Dan Jarvis accepted Tier 3 restrictions for South Yorkshire
Written by Rother Radio News on 21/10/2020
Today was Dan Jarvis’s turn to feel like Steve Rotheram.
Just a week ago, it was the Liverpool city region mayor who was lavished with praise from the Prime Minister for supposedly agreeing to a deal that placed Merseyside in the toughest restrictions that now befall South Yorkshire.
And on Wednesday, Tory ministers and MPs lined up to pay the Sheffield city region may compliment after compliment – one imagines, to stick it to Andy Burnham, the troublesome mayor of Greater Manchester who has not been so compliant.
Health minister Edward Argar said: “I reiterate the tribute I paid to the honourable gentleman for his approach throughout this.
“It is abundantly clear that he and all of his colleagues have the best interests of his region at heart and have worked constructively throughout this process to get the right health and economic outcome for his area.”
Tory MP Steve Brine chipped in: ” I pay tribute, as the minister just did, to the cool heads of some local leaders for working with ministers so sensibly.”
And one MP was even less subtle: “Will my honourable friend commend those local politicians, including the honourable member for Barnsley Central, for the way in which those negotiations have been conducted, which has of course been in stark contrast to the behaviour of some other elected mayors?” said Scott Benton.
After weeks of talks and speculation, from midnight on Friday night Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield will go into the highest level of restrictions, meaning their pubs and bars – unless they serve substantial meals – will be forced to close, along with other hospitality venues including soft play centres, casinos and adult gaming centres.
Mr Jarvis agreed to a £41m financial package for the region, including £11m for test and trace, compliance and enforcement, and £30m in tailored economic support.
The mayor’s statement following the announcement was sober and measured.
He said he had taken the “responsible route to ensure we save lives and livelihoods”.
Outlining his reasons for entering into tier three, Mr Jarvis said more older people were contracting the virus and the number of people with Coronavirus in hospitals had doubled over the last ten days.
“Inaction was not an option,” Mr Jarvis concluded.
The balanced language used publicly disguises what has been seen as a very unbalanced process – one in which it appears Mr Jarvis was given very little option but to accept the “take it or leave it” offer, as it was described by one MP.
In a letter to his fellow MPs, Mr Jarvis, who also represents Barnsley Central, indicated that he wanted more from the government than what was offered.
“These are incredibly difficult times,” he wrote.
“I believe that the arrangements agreed are fair, commensurate with proposals for other areas facing similar restrictions and will help to tackle the spread of the virus.
“But there is no doubt that the government could go further in its support package for businesses and our communities.
“I assure you that we will continue to discuss these issues with the government.”
The mayor went on to say that he had “grave concerns” about the job support scheme, in which workers will have two thirds of their wages covered by government, as well as the eligibility of businesses for support where the restrictions make it difficult for them to operate.
“There are businesses in each of our constituencies that will have to close, that have to make difficult decisions about their workforce and who will have doubts about their future,” he said.
“But we have to act now and to make sure the support we put in place works as effectively as possible to slow the spread of the virus and mitigate the impact on our economy and our communities.”
In the House of Commons, Labour MP Peter Kyle said what many what were thinking.
“Local and regional authority leaders from South Yorkshire and right the way across the country will have heard the health secretary and the Prime Minister repeatedly say in the past 24 hours that they cannot exceed the items offered to Merseyside in their negotiations elsewhere,” he said.
“Will the minister at least be honest and say that this is not a negotiation?
“It is a take-it-or-leave-it deal that other authorities can take. Those who lead authorities have to ask themselves the question: what is the point of negotiating?”
Mr Jarvis assured his MPs that he would continue talking to the government to get further support for businesses and indivduals.
But with an executive that has demonstrated it is taking a centralised approach to localised outbreaks the only merit may be in trying.