'Are you going to level up or level down the North?' Leaders call for more cash to cope with looming lockdowns

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Leaders across northern England are urging the Government to provide more funding in support of areas which could face further Covid-19 restrictions.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said on Saturday, October 10, that accepting Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s financial package would be to “surrender” people to hardship in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Sunak announced the Government will pay two-thirds of employees’ salaries if a business has to close due to coronavirus restrictions, in an expansion to the Job Support Scheme.

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But speaking at a press conference with other leaders from the region, Mr Burnham said the measures risked levelling down the north with “severe redundancies” and business closures a possibility.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireChancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

He added: “To accept the Chancellor’s package as outlined yesterday would be to surrender our residents to hardship in the run up to Christmas and our businesses to potential failure or collapse.

“We are not prepared to do that. It will level down the north of England and widen the north-south divide.”

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, also spoke at the press conference and added: “If you take away someone’s freedom to earn a living, you have to compensate them fully.”

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“Are you going to level up the North, or level down the North?”

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor.Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor.
Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor.

The comments came ahead of an announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, October 12, where he is expected to outline a new tiered system of restrictions. on Monday.

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 hospitality venues closing.

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In an open letter published alongside the press conference, the leaders added: “We believe the Government should bring forward a separate vote on the financial package to provide an opportunity to reject the current financial package and requiring the Government to return with an improved package taking account of the important points we have raised.

“We would ask that you use whatever routes might be open to you to bring about a vote in the House.”

The letter is signed by Mr Burnham, Mr Driscoll, Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis and Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council.

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