Covid: Northern mayors demand 80% pay for workers hit by lockdown closures

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Northern mayors have rejected the Chancellor's "insufficient" financial package to support workers who are unable to work due to coronavirus restrictions.

Areas in the north of England have been particularly hard hit by new coronavirus infections and it is thought pubs and bars may have to close under the new measures.

Under the Chancellor's new financial scheme, employees whose place of work has been closed due to lockdown restrictions will be paid two-thirds of their wages by the government - less than the 80% they would have received under the initial furlough scheme.

A new tier system is due to be introduced next week, which would see the worst-infected areas hit with the most stringent lockdown measures.

None of the metro mayor said they would accept tier three - which is the strictest of the tiers - unless it comes with further financial support equal to the original furlough scheme of 80% of wages. A legal battle was not ruled out by the mayors if their demands were not met.

Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, whose city could be included in the harshest lockdown measures, said Rishi Sunak's proposal was "insufficient" and would leave the lowest paid workers vulnerable.

  • Andy Burnham rejects government's new financial package

He said: "These people can’t choose to pay two-thirds of their rent or two-thirds of their bills.”

He also suggested the timing of the proposals could leave people without any financial support for several weeks, with some first payments only due in December.

“That would leave people with no money for a period of six weeks and could push them into debt and severe hardship.”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool city region, said the city was “in the same boat” as others in the north of England.

He said: “We are actually talking about lives and livelihoods.

“Imposing new restrictions without also providing adequate funding and support is simply not acceptable.”

He added: “If 80% was the right benchmark in March, nothing has changed. If it’s right then, it’s right now.”

Mr Burnham and Mr Rotherham have signed a letter, along with Dan Jarvis, mayor of Sheffield city region, Jamie Discoll, Mayor of North of Tyne and Sir Richard leese, leader of Manchester City Council, urging MPs to bring forward a separate vote in the House of Commons on Mr Sunak's financial proposal which would require the government to offer an improved package to workers.

Late-night drinkers in Liverpool Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

The letter also calls for additional support for business owners, saying that the £3,000 per month for some businesses may not stop them from collapsing.

It continues: "Many are now on a knife-edge and this payment will not be enough to save them. Again, we fail to understand why a local lockdown does not attract a business support package equal to that provided during national lockdown given that the effect is the same."

Mr Burnham said he was calling for cross-party support from MPs across the North for a vote in Parliament on the support proposals announced by the Chancellor on Friday.

“I would not rule out a legal challenge. Why do we accept hospitality workers are somehow second class citizens? I don’t accept it,” he said.

“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.”