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Northern England mayors call for bigger financial support ahead of new COVID-19 rules

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manchester
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manchester

LONDON (Reuters) – Leaders of major cities in northern England on Saturday asked for more generous economic support for workers and businesses facing local lockdown, saying the government’s current proposals would wreak economic hardship on their citizens.

British finance minister Rishi Sunak on Friday offered extra help for businesses and people who are forced to stop work during local coronavirus lockdowns.

But Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said that the support package was unacceptable ahead of the expected introduction of new restrictions in large parts of northern England.

He called for an increase to the proposed two-thirds of wages for furloughed workers, while government needed to recognise a broader array of businesses that would be impacted.

To accept the package would be “to surrender our residents to hardship in the run up to Christmas, and our businesses to potential failure or collapse,” Burnham told reporters.

Burnham said that he and other mayors were writing to lawmakers to call for a vote on the package, with a view to getting it rejected and replacing it with new support measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make a statement to parliament on Monday about potential new lockdown restrictions, after lawmakers have been handed more say over COVID-19 rules.

“The rising incidence in parts of the country mean that it is very likely that certain local areas will face further restrictions,” Edward Lister, a senior aide to the prime minister, said in a letter to lawmakers on Friday.

An Office for National Statistics survey on Friday showed that 1% and 0.9% of people in the North East and North West respectively are estimated to have had COVID-19 in the week to Sept 28, compared to an average of 0.4% for England.

Parts of northern England have already been under extra restrictions since last week, including limits on social interactions and mixing indoors.

Burnham said that talks with the government about the new restrictions were ongoing.

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