Burnham furious after Sage minutes show group backed more Covid support for North

11 December 2020, 20:18

Andy Burnham was furious to learn that Sage had recommended more Covid-19 support
Andy Burnham was furious to learn that Sage had recommended more Covid-19 support. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Andy Burnham has reacted furiously after Sage minutes from the summer - released only on Friday - revealed that scientists called for more Covid funding for the region.

The document shows that scientists backed "similar – and probably more – support" for struggling areas to ensure the public complied with the newly-formed tier system of restrictions.

Tweeting furiously in reaction to the revelation, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he had "lost count" of the number of ministers who accused him of "playing politics" and "posturing" when he demanded more money for the city region.

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"But now it emerges that Sage were recommending to the same minister exactly what I said GM and the North needed," he wrote.

"I hope people can see now why I fought in the way that I did."

Talks between ministers and regional leaders in the summer ended in a furious row after accusations of "bullying and blackmailing" and unfair settlements which would lead to widespread closure of hospitality venues across the North.

The Government offered Greater Manchester £60 million but Mr Burnham walked away at the last minute, claiming that £65 million was the "bare minimum" needed to keep affected business afloat and that he would not accept anything less.

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Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield, said that it was a "vindication" of the mayor and other politicians who chose to demand further support for their areas.

Shortly after the row it was announced that all areas would receive the support needed anyway as the country headed towards a second national lockdown.

The minutes also reveal that Sage warned against poor communication and an emphasis on punishment.

"Clear communications and engagement are required to avoid interventions being seen as arbitrary or discriminatory," the document said.

"There is more likely to be a positive response to interventions from the public if the reasons behind changes are fully explained and understood."

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It also revealed the group's opposition to the phrase 'lockdown', saying it "connotes separation and punishment and does not empower nor capture the responsibility of individuals to make good choices".

It recommended using the term 'areas of intervention’ instead - since adopted as a way to highlight areas which are heading towards a higher tier level.

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