SUNDERLAND Labour Group’s leader has pledged that his party will do everything it possibly can to ‘mitigate Government failures around PPE’ after securing more than 7,000 face masks for frontline staff in the city.

Councillor Graeme Miller, who is also leader of Sunderland City Council, said that he and colleagues from Sunderland Labour Group are doing all they can to ensure much-needed equipment is sourced for healthcare workers who he said are ‘putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others’.

The leader has been in communication with his mayoral counterpart in Sunderland’s partner city of Harbin, and was able to agree a shipment of thousands of items of protective equipment which will help workers on the frontline stay safe. He has called on the Government to ensure NHS and essential care workers in Sunderland are given adequate kit as they battle Covid-19.

Councillor Miller said: “It is shameful that anyone should be expected to put themselves at risk in order to do their job, especially when they are undertaking roles that are absolutely central in the fight against Coronavirus.

“It is not the time for political point-scoring and we must all work together in a common endeavour to get help to those who need it most. Where it is clear that the Government is failing to protect people in this city, we will do everything we can to mitigate that. We’re calling on everyone to pull together and any businesses or individuals that have supplies of PPE they’re able to donate to do so as we battle the Covid-19 crisis together.”

Cllr Miller is awaiting delivery of more than 7,000 items of PPE promised after communication with Mayor Sun Zhe from Harbin, a city with which Sunderland shares a friendship agreement.

“We’re enormously grateful to our friends in Harbin, and look forward to taking delivery of the vital equipment they are sharing with us,” Cllr Miller said.

“We know there have been challenges with supply of PPE nationally, and we cannot and should not leave this to Government, hope for the best, and allow people to continue to risk their lives without adequate protection. We’re searching out additional PPE supplies and we will do all we can to get it out to those who need it most.”

He added: “During times like this, it is the strength of our communities that endure – the way in which we all support one another. In Sunderland, it is our community spirit and our friendships that define us – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, we have built relationships that will get us through this crisis, as we all help each other through.

“Harbin’s act of kindness is built on the strong connections we have established with the city, and we look forward to continuing with that and working together in the future when the world has emerged from this crisis.”