IN the General Election last December, Labour suffered a historic defeat that saw us lose a number of seats across the North-East, including three in County Durham.

The result suggested that Labour, for various reasons, had lost the trust of some communities in the region. As the newly elected MP for the City of Durham, I promised that I would listen to those communities and stand up for the constituency I was elected to serve.

On Tuesday, MPs voted on whether to accept the Government’s new, localised tier system. While I firmly support coronavirus restrictions to protect public health and to limit the spread of the virus, it was clear that the Government’s proposals were deeply flawed.

Business support to Tier 3 areas was fixed at £20-a-head, no matter how long the restrictions stay in place, while pubs that were unable to serve takeaways were promised just £1,000 in extra support.

Such support was the bare minimum and nowhere near what was required. Under these proposals, there is the real prospect that businesses will go under, jobs will be lost, and more families will be pushed into poverty. I could not, in good conscience, vote for measures that would be so harmful to my constituents and that would undoubtedly widen the gap between the North-East and other regions.

Instead, I joined my fellow Labour MPs in Durham, Kevan Jones and Grahame Morris, in voting against the proposals.

The knock-on effect of these measures, stripped of adequate financial and logistical support, will massively harm our communities in the long-term. Poverty is a leading cause of ill health and the environment in which a person lives is a major contributor to this. As public health expert Professor Marmot said about health inequality: “What good does it do to treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?”

This point is so relevant today. Yes, we need coronavirus restrictions, but without economic support, we risk harming public health in the long-term.

The Government’s proposals were made even more concerning by the lack of resources and clarity offered to local government. Directors of Public Health in the North-East are crying out for greater funding for local contact tracing teams, which have proven to be far more successful and cost effective than the Government’s preferred centralised system, run by wasteful private companies.

In addition, local authorities had not been informed of the criteria for their area to leave Tier 3. This was made especially confusing by the unequal application of restrictions across regions. For example, Havering, in London, has been placed in Tier 2 despite having a higher infection rate than Durham.

How could MPs be expected to vote for restrictions that that had no clear criteria for how they could be lifted?

So I was a bit shocked to see all three County Durham Conservative MPs voting for these restrictions, despite the regional inequality and harm to businesses in the North-East that will accompany them. At the very least, you would expect some demands from these MPs in return for their support. After all, despite their countless promises to level up the region at the General Election, this Conservative Government seems to have already forgotten about the North-East.