Statement from Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, on the government’s ‘roadmap’ out of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, has spoken in response to the statement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament this afternoon.

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, has spoken in response to the statement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament this afternoon about the easing of current lockdown restrictions; followed by the Downing Street briefing this evening out of lockdown. She said:

“If we were to hold a minute’s silence for every person who has died from the virus in the borough since last March, we would remain silent for almost 12 hours. Given everything we have suffered we must now make sure the government gets the roadmap out of lockdown right this time, so we can stop the cycle of national restrictions which we’ve experienced since March last year, and that requires the financial support our community deserves to help us deal with the ongoing challenge of Covid-19 living”.

“The four-stage approach and other plans announced by the prime minister today, including a focus on the data not dates, must come with more money to local authorities like Newham Council, because we have faced real financial pressures during a time that our priority has been an absolute focus on protecting our communities in the face of this deadly virus. Already, Covid-19 has cost us £75 million and there has been a £12 million shortfall in money received from the government. It’s an outrage and an injustice that we have to pay for the failures of the government’s response to Covid-19, and not fulfilling its promise to Council that they will give us more money.”

“I am proud of the way our community has come together during this lockdown, through the Newham Food Alliance working with over one hundred voluntary, community and faith organisations; Covid-19 Health Champions and our Vaccine Peer Support network. All of us have played our part by following the public health guidance to keep ourselves and loved ones safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, I thank the key workers who have worked through the pandemic and the work of Covid-19 volunteers dedicated to helping our community.” 

“I also want to pay tribute to our hard working and committed teachers and schools in Newham, who have done everything they can to support our youngsters during this incredibly challenging time either remotely or by keeping their schools open for children of key workers and those who are vulnerable. We know that there will be a profound impact on our children educationally and in their well-being and that’s why I welcome schools re-opening on 8 March, because we need to reverse any impact on their long-term prospects. But I am clear, that we will continue supporting our schools here in Newham with the important Covid-19 risk assessments required and with testing that will keep our children, teachers and school staff safe; and protect the wider community in Newham. Our children’s education is an absolute priority, and attending school is an important start to get back to some semblance of ‘normality’ but it must be done safely.

Working people have been hit hardest by the lockdown and nowhere harder than Newham. People tell me every day about their financial struggles during lockdown but the government is clearly out of touch by failing to commit to provide the help that people need going forward, so I am calling for:  

  • Furlough extension Government must commit to an extension of the furlough scheme with at least 80 percent of people’s salaries being covered, and no one’s income falling below the national minimum wage. 
  • Extending the ban on evictions further as no one should be tossed out out of their homes by landlords for no fault of their own during a pandemic. 
  • More support for self-isolation so that anyone having to self-isolate should be provided full sick pay protection and options to isolate in alternative accommodation if required – which is what we are doing in Newham, and we are the only Council doing this to break the cycle of virus transmission, 

Our community deserves it fair share of the funds to this life-threatening virus, that why we have been calling for the Covid-19 Deprivation Premium since last year. It is an outrage that the Government won’t even tell us how much funding for public health Newham will receive from this April when we know the cost will be at least £31 million, and that’s why we have committed to this in our Budget. 

I am proud that Newham Council stepped in when the government has fallen short. We are all made safer by everyone who needs to being able to self-isolate. That is why we have become the first borough in the country to offer hotel accommodation to those who would struggle to self-isolate otherwise. 

Finally, it is good news that the vaccination programme is being sped up. The Council has been playing a significant role in encouraging uptake amongst residents. We stand ready to do even more. 

I would urge everyone to remember that, although we have reason to hope now more than ever, the pandemic is not yet over. Please continue to follow the rules and guidance to stay safe: keep regularly washing your hands, wear a face covering and socially distance wherever possible. 

My thanks again to everyone who has helped reduce the spread of this terrible virus in Newham. Stay well and let’s carry on with all the efforts required to keep Newham safe.  

Published: 22 Feb 2021