Sunderland MPs respond after Echo quizzes Business Secretary Alok Sharma on city's economic recovery

Sunderland MPs have had their own say after the Echo put Business Secretary Alok Sharma on the spot.
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Sunderland Echo’s live news editor Laura Hill quizzed the Cabinet Minister as part of the daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Tuesday asking for the publication of local R rates and what support would be available to help the areas worst hit by the outbreak.

Laura asked Mr Sharma: “Will a local town-by-town, city-by-city R rates being calculated? Will these be used to determine local lockdowns and will these be published?”, but was told by Mr Sharma there were no plans to publish this information.

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The Business Secretary refused to be drawn on details about economic recovery packages for regions, but instead said the government was committed to the ‘levelling up’ of the economy that had been promised during the 2019 election campaign.

Julie Elliott Julie Elliott
Julie Elliott

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said she was sceptical about the response from the government.

“I remain unconvinced that the Government’s test and trace system is ‘world-leading’,” she said.

“The Government were too slow to involve councils in this process and the system is in chaos. Labour is calling for local councils to be granted the necessary powers to play their role in enforcing lockdowns in their area as needed to respond to a local spike in infections.”

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Ms Hodgson said there should be no room for political favourites in getting the country back on its feet.

She said: “Regional inequalities must be addressed effectively and money should be directed to areas of need, rather than areas the Prime Minister’s friends represent.

“Our local public health services need to be invested in so that they can provide support to people who need it.

“I will continue to urge the Government to take steps to safeguard people’s health, jobs and livelihoods. We all have a part to play in tackling Coronavirus, so I urge my constituents to follow the Government’s guidance on social distancing.”

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Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott has been left unimpressed with the Government’s work on economic recovery: “Although the Government announced a variety of welcome measures to help people through the Covid-19 crisis, they have not addressed the underlying issues of high unemployment and a failing social security system that was prevalent before the crisis, and that will continue once the virus has passed,” she said.

“We need to see a comprehensive package, provided by the government, to protect people well into the future, to stimulate jobs and to ensure that our councils our well supported.”

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