North West ‘the canary in the coalmine’ for government coronavirus response

Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester Metro Mayor said the Goverment is treating the North West region as “canaries in the coal mine” and vowed to resist moves to put the region, including Lancashire, into the highest risk Tier Three level.

There has been widespread speculation that Greater Manchester and Lancashire will soon join the Liverpool City Region in the most restrictive circumstances, where pubs and bars, betting shops, casinos and adult gaming centres are forced to close for at least a month.

The measures will be reviewed monthly, for at least six months.

Civic and business leaders are calling for adequate financial support for individuals and businesses affected by tough local lockdowns.

But speaking in Manchester this afternoon, Mr Burnham said the Government told local leaders there was no funding available.

“Government says there’s no money left, there’s no money to put on the table. But it will cost less to support people in this moment than it would to let people struggle,” he said.

He added: “The Government is not giving city regions like us and Liverpool City Region the necessary financial backing.

“That’s why we have unanimously opposed the Government’s plans for Tier Three. They are flawed and unfair.

“They are willing to sacrifice jobs and businesses here, to try and save them elsewhere.”

He said: “Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and Lancashire are being set up as canaries in the coal mine.”

“All the way through this we have offered to work with the Government but we hit a point where we just can’t see jobs of people put at risk, health put at risk and homes put at risk.

“This is an important moment. We can’t be treated as second class citizens.

“Greater Manchester will stand firm.”

Local leaders have asked the Governnment for 80% wage payments for furlough and for self-employed and for proper compensation schemes for business.

Mr Burnham said they wait for further engagement with the Government

Earlier today, Oldham Council leader, Sean Fielding, revealed the Government’s opening line in its discussions with North West civic figures was: “We’ll either do Tier Three with you or we’ll impose it.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced this morning in the House of Commons that Barrow-in Furness had been placed into Tier Two from midnight on Friday, along with London, and the neighbouring county of Essex, which bans households mixing.

Latest coronavirus infection rates for England show that 89,874 new infection cases had been identified during the week to October 7, an increase of 64% on the previous week’s figures.

There are also currently 1,500 COVID-19 patients in hospitals around the North West, and 135 on ventilators.

Matt Hancock said: “We must take firm and balanced decisions to keep this virus under control.

“The virus comes down slower than it goes up,” adding “local action is one of the best weapons we have.”

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