Andy Burnham ‘open-mouthed’ after government unveils tier 2 support ‘to help London’

Mayor accuses the government of only unveiling support now it is needed by the capital

Andy Burnham ‘open-mouthed’ after government unveils tier 2 support ‘to help London’

The north of England is being “dictated to from 200 miles away” and “pushed around” by Westminster, Andy Burnham has said.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, who faced down the government this week as he tried to get extra coronavirus support for his region, said he was left “open-mouthed” when he read that the government was unveiling new measures that would help London and Birmingham.

As he accused the government of “dividing and ruling”, he told a committee of MPs on Thursday morning: “We’ve been under these restrictions for three months… that just doesn’t seem to have featured at all. Bolton had their pubs closed for three weeks with nothing, absolutely nothing despite the fact we did raise that on a regular basis.”

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, today unveiled extra help for businesses under tier 2 restrictions just after they were imposed in London. Greater Manchester and other areas of the country have laboured under similar rules for months.

Mr Burnham said the episode showed there were “major questions for the government to answer here on how it’s treated places”, and he called for a “reckoning”. He said regional leaders had been expected to come to Westminster “on bended knee” and ask for help.

Speaking at the same committee hearing, Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool city region, echoed Mr Burnham’s comments.

“For far too long, too many decisions have been taken with the interests of London,” he said.

The chancellor on Thursday unveiled a £2,100-a-month grant to hospitality, accommodation and leisure businesses as part of a package to help the economy of areas under tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak announce new support measures for tier 2 restriction areas in the Commons on Thursday

The grants will go to up to 150,000 businesses in England – including hotels, restaurants and B&Bs – that are not legally required to close but have lost business because of localised restrictions.  

The government confirmed that the grants would be backdated to August and thus help businesses that had been under tier 2 previously.

“Honestly, can barely believe what I’m reading here,” Mr Burnham said of the backdating.

“Why on earth was this not put on the table on Tuesday to reach an agreement with us? I said directly to the prime minister that a deal was there to be done if it took into account the effects on Greater Manchester businesses of three months in tier 2.”

Mr Sunak also doubled the value of upcoming grants for the self-employed from 20 per cent to 40 per cent of average profits, increasing their maximum value from £1,875 to £3,750.

And he reduced from 33 per cent to 5 per cent the minimum employer’s contribution to the wages of staff unable to work full-time, also cutting the minimum requirement from 33 per cent to 20 per cent of normal hours, so those working just one day a week will be eligible.

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