The Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, has appealed to political leaders in Westminster to help “break the impasse” over new coronavirus rules by holding a Commons vote this week.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and other party leaders, Burnham urged them to draw up a financial package for residents and businesses in areas with the strictest tier 3 restrictions.
Burnham was due to speak with Sir Edward Lister, the prime minister’s chief strategic adviser, on Sunday but there remains little sign that the government is willing to concede ground on some of the key demands of northern leaders, including Conservative MPs representing Greater Manchester constituencies.
Burnham said it was likely that “most places” would be in tier 3 restrictions before a vaccine was found, and the current Treasury offer was insufficient to prevent businesses from collapsing and people experiencing severe hardship.
He said: “Establishing clear national entitlements of the kind we had during the first lockdown will create a sense of fairness, which in turn would help build public support for, and compliance with, any new restrictions. We believe that sense of fairness will only be achieved by providing similar terms to the financial package afforded to the whole country back in March.”
Earlier, Michael Gove escalated the government’s war of words with Burnham by accusing him of risking lives by opting for “press conferences and posturing” rather than agreeing to new coronavirus rules.
In comments likely to further inflame tensions between ministers and local leaders and MPs, Gove dismissed concerns about the level of economic support offered for Greater Manchester to be moved into the top level of restrictions.
Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, rejected Labour’s call for a “circuit breaker” temporary national lockdown to reduce Covid infection rates, saying the latest wave of the virus was being spread unevenly around the country.
While he did not mention Burnham by name, Gove was explicit in blaming “the political leadership in Greater Manchester” for an impasse over whether the region should enter tier 3, saying people would die as a result of the delays.
“I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they’ve indulged in, and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS,” Gove told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.