Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has challenged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do more to address inequality ahead of an upcoming statement on the UK economy.
In article for the Times newspaper, Andy Burnham highlights how communities in the North of England have been harder hit by the coronavirus pandemic, both in the numbers falling ill and the economic fallout.
Andy Burnham called on the Chancellor to address the fact that many low paid workers, including in the health and social care sector, are unable to follow public health advice such as self-isolating, due to the financial pressures of not working, with many ineligible to claim sick pay due to the nature of employment contracts.
The Mayor also challenged the Chancellor to commit to reducing inequality as part of the government’s election pledge of ‘levelling up’ the UK’s regions.
Andy Burnham also set out five actions he would take were he occupying the Chancellor’s role:
- An immediate payrise for social care workers to a minimum living wage of £10 per hour, and full pay for those needing to self-isolate.
- A significant increase in statutory sick pay to allow all workers to self-isolate if contacted by NHS Track and Trace without facing financial hardship.
- Abolishing the benefit cap which has not been adjusted to account for the impact of Covid-19.
- Commiting to improving work and pay for low-paid professions, many of which are classed as ‘essential workers’ and continued working through lockdown, with Greater Manchester’s Good Employment Charter as a template.
- A review into establishing a Universal Basic Income to abolish situations where workers’ pay rises are immediately offset by falls in other benefit income.
Andy Burnham agreed with the Chancellor’s commitment to investing in young people but concluded calling for reflection, saying:
The fact that we are living through this pandemic now doesn’t mean we couldn’t face another one in the near future. It would be unforgivable if we fail to learn the lessons from it and be honest with ourselves about why Britain’s death toll has been so high.”