Liverpool mayor backs Burnham as Government accuses him of 'political positioning'

18 October 2020, 10:55 | Updated: 18 October 2020, 14:19

By Joe Cook

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday he will “stand shoulder to shoulder” with Andy Burnham in a row over local lockdowns.

The Greater Manchester Mayor is embroiled in a row with the Government over local lockdowns in the north west as he fights for extra financial support for places subjected to extra restrictions.

Mr Burnham and Conservative politicians in Greater Manchester oppose Tier 3 measures being imposed, with the mayor calling for greater financial support for workers and businesses.

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He also accused the Chancellor of making "wrong judgements," telling the New Statesman magazine: "I think the problem now is, to a large degree, the Chancellor. I think he's made wrong judgements throughout this.

Mr Rotheram accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of using his name “inappropriately”, in what he described as “an attempt to divide and conquer”.

Liverpool entered into Tier 3 local lockdown restrictions from midnight on Wednesday, with gyms, casinos and pubs that do not serve food forced to close.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove hit back at Mr Burnham on Sunday, accusing him of political positioning and insisting the Government wants to reach an agreement.

He said: "I want them to put aside some of the political positioning they've been indulging in, and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS."

Adding pressure onto Mr Burnham, who wants more financial support for his region if it does move to Tier 3, it was today announced that Liverpool will receive an extra £30 million to help businesses affected by the restrictions.

In the House of Commons and at press conferences, the Prime Minister has repeatedly mentioned Mr Rotheram as an example of a local leader who is working with the government.

Asked by Tom whether he was happy at being “so clearly close to the Prime Minister’s position”, the Liverpool mayor rolled his eyes, joking: “No it’s not and the wife is getting jealous so I wish he would stop.

"If I had a pound for every time I have had my name inappropriately used I would be challenging Captain Tom for his exploits in charity fundraising.”

He added: “What is actually happening is it is an attempt to divide and conquer. By using me it looks like ‘Oh well they have done something, why aren’t other people doing the same sort of thing’.”

Mr Rotheram added: “I know what it is about, it is about trying to see whether they can prise myself and Andy Burnham apart.

“But let me tell you: there is no chance of that happening. Myself and Andy Burnham will stand shoulder to shoulder.

“What he is doing for Greater Manchester is the right thing for them. What we are doing here, is the right thing for the Liverpool City region and the 1.6 million people that I represent.”

The Liverpool metro mayor also reiterated the Labour party's calls for a 'circuit break', saying a "jolt" is needed to "really reset the dials".

He told Tom: “We have asked for something like a circuit breaker for, not just the Liverpool City region, but across the country, because I believe that whilst we are having these additional restrictions imposed on us even they may not have the desired effect."

He added: “What will help us come out more quickly is what we have already wrestled from national government, which is local control over test and trace.

"We can do things here far more efficiently and far more quickly than government could.

"We can evidence it: There was a place called Prince’s Park in Liverpool, Liverpool City Council did things very, very differently and demonstrably brought down coronavirus transmission rates.”

Mr Burnham is reportedly set to speak to Number 10 on Sunday after confusion around a call earlier in the weekend.

He also released a copy of a letter he sent to the Prime Minister and other party leaders, calling on them to "establish a fair financial framework for local lockdowns."

The Mayor wrote: "As you will know, Greater Manchester has been under Tier 2-style restrictions for approaching three months.

"It is important to say that, by agreeing to work with the Government on this back in July, we have shown we will take the difficult decisions needed to protect health and control the virus. However, these restrictions have taken a toll on people and businesses.

"We have our doubts about whether Tier 3 will succeed in bringing down the number of cases and note similar comments from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor.

"However, that aside, we are clear that the level of support being offered to areas entering Tier 3 will be insufficient both to prevent people experiencing serious hardship in the run-up to Christmas and businesses from collapsing. 

"And yet this is not just a Greater Manchester issue. With the challenging winter that lies ahead of the country, it is likely that most places will find themselves in Tier 3 at some point before a vaccine is found.

"That is why we believe it is right for Parliament to debate and agree what is a fair level of support for people and businesses in those areas.

"At present, local areas are agreeing individual deals with the Government. It is by no means clear that these will be sufficient to cope with the pressures they will face.

"Also, the lack of transparency about this process and the risks of differential treatment is potentially divisive."