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Boris Johnson is expected to close bars and restaurants in the parts of the North from Monday under his “three-tier” lockdown system aimed at tackling the rapid spread of COVID-19. As large parts of his masterplan were leaked to the press, local leaders hit out at the Government’s lack of consultation on the raft of new measures.
Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle are poised to be placed in the “tier three” category which will have the strictest implications.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “Once again this week, people across the North were left reading a late-night newspaper report to learn their fate.
“Pubs and restaurants across the North would close from Monday, we were told.
“Despite having had meetings with two Cabinet ministers this week with fellow northern mayors, there was no mention of this.
“This isn’t just unfair to us – it is downright disrespectful to the millions of people who work in hospitality across the North who have spent today worrying about their jobs.”
He said he was not opposed to new rules if there was scientific evidence to back them up.
But Mr Burnham argued he could not agree to further restrictions without adequate financial support for people who will see their workplaces shuttered.
He said if the Government pushed ahead with its plans without offering support to Mancunians, it would prove ministers were “trying to deal with a virus on the cheap” while making the North “pay the price”.
Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett emerged as another harsh critic of Mr Johnson’s plans.
He hit out at the Prime Minister’s proposed move, accusing him of using people in parts of the North as guinea pigs in a coronavirus experiment.
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Writing in the Daily Mail, he said: “I don’t understand why Boris Johnson thinks he will get away with treating a swathe of Britain as an experimental laboratory for testing measures that have limited scientific validity at best.”
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said he felt “exhausted” from trying to work with the Government on how best to deal with the city’s infections.
She said she fears both Leeds and Bradford will be placed in the “tier 3” category which could have dire consequences for the hospitality sector.
She said: “We’re working with both hands tied behind our backs, trying to do the best thing locally and then you get the government just leaking information to the press.
“It’s so depressing.
“I’m sure it’s a tactic too – put it out there, soften people up, see what the reaction is.”
As details of the Prime Minister’s plan were leaked to the press, Labour Mayor of the Sheffield City Region and MP Dan Jarvis took to Twitter to vent his fury.
Mr Jarvis said it was “recklessly irresponsible” of the Prime Minister “to brief the papers but not leaders in the North who’ll somehow have to make this work”.
He added: “Get a grip @BorisJohnson.”
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