City leaders in north of England criticise plans for tougher Covid restrictions

10 October 2020, 12:29 | Updated: 10 October 2020, 22:07

By Asher McShane

Leaders in the north of England have criticised a lack of financial support offered by the chancellor as they face the possibility of further coronavirus restrictions.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said on Saturday at a press conference with political leaders from Liverpool, Sheffield and Tyneside: "Imposing new restrictions without also providing adequate funding and support is simply not acceptable.

"We were told yesterday the financial package that would accompany any new system of restrictions, as announced by the Chancellor yesterday afternoon, was final and non-negotiable. And I have to say, we cannot accept that.

"This package only appeared late in the day, and at the start of the week there was not going to be any financial package at all. Following pressure from mayors and other leaders that changed.

"But the analysis we have done of that package, and we've took time to digest what the Chancellor had said, the conclusion we have reached is this package is insufficient to protect our communities as we go into the rest of the autumn and the winter."

Boris Johnson will make a statement on Monday which could mean pubs and bars in the worst-affected areas having to close.

Leaders criticised plans to close pubs and hospitality venues as part of a new system of coronavirus restrictions.

Read more: Masks should be worn in offices, doctors say

Read more: 'Tier three' expected within days

The Labour leader of Gateshead Council Martin Gannon said today he is opposed to a lockdown of hospitality venues and that current measures should be given time to work.

Stricter measures are expected in the north of England
Stricter measures are expected in the north of England. Picture: PA

The Prime Minister's chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister wrote to northern MPs following a meeting with leaders from the north on Friday to warn them it was "very likely" the region would be hit with tougher rules.

But northern leaders have complained they have not been consulted and said that more restrictions will lead to further "resistance and further confusion".

Mr Gannon said: "I think new measures would be counter-productive.

"We had three different sets of regulations in 10 days which caused huge resistance and confusion.

"Our argument is that even with the mixed messaging, even with the confusion and frustration, the measures that are in at the moment are beginning to work.

"Help us to win confidence to the measures that are currently in, not bring in new measures and get even further resistance and further confusion."

Under the three-tier system, different parts of the country would be placed in different categories, with areas in the highest level expected to face tough restrictions such as pubs closing.

Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said he expected his city to be in the highest category and added: "I do believe that the measures that will be introduced will be a lockdown of public houses from Wednesday within the city of Liverpool and beyond the city of Liverpool in terms of the whole region.

"We do believe that there will be a concession to restaurants in terms of allowing restaurants to stay open until 10 o'clock."

Meanwhile, the leaders of West Yorkshire councils warned another lockdown will have a "devastating" effect on the town and city centres and regional economy.

In a joint letter to the Chancellor and health and housing secretaries on Friday, the leaders said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak's announcement that workers in businesses which are forced to close under the new restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the Government was "not enough".

They added: "Government must, for both levels two and three, provide a substantial economic package including grants and furlough - not just where businesses are mandated to close.

"In a three-level approach, there must be significantly more support available to businesses in areas that are in either level two or level three to avoid an even deeper economic catastrophe."

Talks are to continue over the weekend.

A further 13,864 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were reported on Friday, and 87 more deaths were confirmed of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

Nottingham has the highest rate in England, with 760.6 cases per 100,000 people - a huge jump from 158.3 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 29.

Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has leapt from 391.1 to 657.6 per 100,000, while Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has also increased sharply, from 419.0 to 599.9.

Separate figures suggested coronavirus cases are doubling about twice as fast in the North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands as for the whole of England.

In Scotland, pubs and licensed restaurants in five health board areas - Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian, and Forth Valley - were forced to close for all but takeaway service for 16 days from 6pm on Friday.

While in North Wales, new coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in Bangor following a sharp rise in cases, the Welsh Government has announced.

From 6pm on Saturday, people will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a "reasonable excuse" and can only meet people they do not live with outdoors, it said.