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North England leaders vow to resist new coronavirus measures

The combative Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham hasn't ruled out taking legal action against the government over the new measures

As the government prepares to impose new coronavirus-related restriction in England, local leaders in the north of the country have vowed not to “surrender” to “hardship”.

According to multiple reports, the government is planning to introduce a “three-tier” local lockdown system across the country.

Whilst the details of each tier, including the level of infection at which an area would qualify for it and the nature of the restrictions, are currently under discussion, the north of England is expected to be hit hardest.

The iconic northern port city of Liverpool, where there are currently 600 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, is widely expected to be placed under the most severe restrictions, with all of its pubs forced to close.

In a joint press conference with other leaders from northern England, Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, claimed he was told by a “senior figure in Number 10 [Downing Street]”, that the government’s proposed financial help to mitigate the economic effect of the new lockdowns is “non-negotiable”.

The joint press conference was organized in the wake of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement that the government would cover two-thirds of employees’ wages for six months from November if their firm is forced to close by law because of the latest coronavirus-related restrictions.

Rishi Sunak claimed the measures would provide “reassurance and a safety net for people and businesses in advance of what may be a difficult winter”.

But Liverpool’s Labor mayor, Steve Rotheram (who was attending the press conference), objected to the Chancellor’s proposed level of compensation, saying that “if 80 percent was right in March [at the start of the first lockdown], it’s right now”.

“You can't do lockdown for the North on the cheap", Rotheram complained.

Meanwhile, Burnham said he wanted the minimum compensation package to be 80 percent of workers' wages, consistent with the original national furlough scheme.

As part of their resistance to the new measures, Burnham, Rotheram, in addition to the mayors from Sheffield and North of Tyne, have written to all MPs in northern England asking them to call for a separate vote in Parliament on the chancellor's latest package with a view to rejecting it.

For his part, Burnham said he would not rule out a legal challenge as “this goes to the heart of everything we care about - the north of England is staring the most dangerous winter for years right in the face".

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