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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham on the government's midday deadline - 'I don’t think they should be imposing or dictating in this way'

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has told Good Morning Britain what he thinks of the midday deadline the government has issued over Greater Manchester going into Tier 3.

Insisting that he has never said he wouldn't accept Tier 3, Mr Burnham said it was about supporting people through it.

Speaking to Kate Garraway and Ranvir Singh, Mr Burnham said that the health of the residents in Greater Manchester is his first priority when asked if he was gambling with lives by delaying further restrictions.

"First thing I would say to that is we’ve always put health first here. We were one of the first areas in the country after Leicester to accept local restrictions back in the summer. We’ve been under those restrictions for three months now. Three months, and that’s taken a real toll on businesses, on people.

"Let’s just remember what would close in a Tier 3 lockdown - pubs, bookies, places where people are often very low paid," he said.

Stating that he was "taking a stand" for people who will be heavily impacted if Greater Manchester goes into Tier 3, Mr Burnham said: "People who work behind bars or drive taxis, these are often the people that Westminster politicians forget. We’re not going to do that, we are taking a stand for them. If the government is going to place further restrictions on us, they will face certain harm from that, absolutely no question about it. It’s not posturing to provide a voice for people at this particular point in time.”

He added: “Health is about more than controlling the virus. If we are not careful, if we trap places in punishing lockdowns through the winter, we will have a mental health crisis on top of a pandemic to deal with.”

Asked if the Prime Minister can be seen to give in to his stand, he said: “I don’t think they should be imposing or dictating in this way. We need to work together as a country. I’ve offered to work with the government all year. And I did when they asked me to agree to restrictions back in the summer.

"Greater Manchester needs to establish a fair financial framework for Tier 3. There’s a fair chance that all parts of England will find themselves in Tier 3 at some point in the winter. If the terms aren’t right, we’re going to see real damage to people’s lives right across the country”.

"This is an issue for everywhere if you like, not just taking a stand for what we can get for Greater Manchester. I have to stress, we have our Conservative MPs behind us here in what we’re saying. Our Conservative council leader. The government needs to remember that. We have unity here and that unity here reflects something. If you’re going to take people’s work away you have to help them through that," he continued.

Speaking of the infection rate across Greater Manchester, he said: “Of course, it’s a serious situation. But let me give you the figures. As of yesterday, we had about 80% of our intensive care capacity occupied. That’s not unusual for this time of year. But we understand with rising infection that could change quickly, we’re not complacent about that.

"But then on the figures, the cases, there has been a fall in Manchester over the last week. Some of our other boroughs are recording small rises. So it’s a mixed picture at the moment across Greater Manchester, but not quite the spike that the minister was talking about. We need facts here and I’m not sure we got facts yesterday. The NHS I think was used a little to up the stakes in this argument and I don’t think that’s right and proper in a pandemic. You shouldn’t be raising the fears to back up your side of the argument, let’s have factual information given out to the public.”

Referring to the midday government deadline, he said: “The ultimatum letter we got late last night was a little odd as it talked about the possibility of additional support. But the government has never given us a figure about what that might be.

“They’ve never put a figure on that. What I will do this morning is consult with the ten council leaders of Greater Manchester and I would expect that we would be writing to the government this morning to say, we think we need support that reflects the fact that we’ve already been three months in these restrictions and we need flexibility to support the people and businesses that I was talking about at the start of this interview. And in that, there’s the basis of a deal within there if we can agree both the level and flexibility so we can support people.

"This isn’t just about a cheque for Greater Manchester and our councils, this is about that help for people and businesses who will be severely damaged by a Tier 3 lockdown.”

 Asked if it is imposed, will his constituents follow the rules after he’s been so against it, he said: “I’ve never said I wouldn’t accept Tier 3 under any circumstances, what I’ve said is if you’re going to do it, you have to support people properly through it.”

Then asked if he’s proven that resistance isn’t futile, and that actually breaking the rules might be something that he would unconsciously approve of, he said: “I think there is a risk of that isn’t there, but I would say it’s a risk the government are taking. They’re the one’s talking about imposing, I’m not talking about imposing, I’m saying let’s continue talking. I’m trying to be constructive. They’re the ones that set the ultimatum, not me.”

He added: “We are law-abiding people here. We will respect the law of the land. But the government will have to consider the impact of what it is doing and the way it’s going about these discussions.”

He added: “Politics should be about speaking for people who don’t normally get a voice… I won’t make an apology to the government or anybody for speaking for those people. It is my job as the Mayor of Greater Manchester to stand up for my community.”

Asked about Keir Starmer’s view on a circuit breaker lockdown and if his own delay will lead to a national lockdown, he said: “I personally think staying in Tier 2 with the possibility of a national circuit break is the best way to go. The experts tell us that Tier 3 is not certain to bring the cases down, but a circuit break of that kind is certain to bring the cases down. It’s shorter closure, it would create more benefit to health and less harm to the economy. So that is my position.”

He said: “There is an agreement that can be reached with the government. I’ve not said I will resist Tier 3 at all costs. We will only agree to it if you protect the lowest paid, the self-employed, people’s businesses that will collapse if they go into Tier 3. That is the debate. The government could have a resolution of this, it could have Tier 3 status, the way it does that is by properly supporting the lowest-paid people. If it chooses not to do that then I think that is a very worrying state of affairs.”

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