Merseyside leaders hit back at claims they 'kowtowed' to Government

Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram (L), Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre), Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson (R) Credit: PA

Merseyside leaders have hit back at suggestions they "kowtowed" to the Government as they prepare for strict restrictions to be brought in.

At an online press conference on Tuesday, the leaders of the six authorities in Liverpool City Region and metro mayor Steve Rotheram said they were continuing to negotiate with the Government for a better funding package to support businesses such as bars, pubs, gyms and betting shops - which will be forced to close from Wednesday under the new Tier 3 measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference on Monday that the Government had "agreed" with Mr Rotheram to introduce some of the restrictions.

Boris Johnson announced a three-tier system of alert levels in England. Credit: PA

But Mr Rotheram referred to the "sheer chutzpah" of the Prime Minister for naming local leaders when "all of our lives we've been doing everything that we possibly can to prevent the Prime Minister and his ilk from gaining power".

Since the Prime Minister's statement in the House yesterday I have had people accusing me of selling our region down the river or of letting people down.

Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram
Liverpool’s Cavern Club Credit: PA

He continued: "There have even been some suggestions that I should grow a spine and other accoutrements to the lower part of my body."

If anyone's unhappy about pubs and gyms closing, blame the mess the Government have made of their handling of the crisis. What has been portrayed as a negotiation between us and them was anything but.

Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: "This belief that we kowtowed to the Government, this was forced upon us and we were weak and allowed Government to do what they wished upon us, the fact of the matter is we knew, and it was leaked in The Times, that we were being put in Tier 3."

The Government have decided what measures are in Tier 3, not me, not any of the leaders.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson

Director of public health for Liverpool Matt Ashton told the press conference the area had seen a rapid increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases with a spread in transmission across all age groups and the whole city region.

Bars, pubs, gyms and betting shops will be forced to close from Wednesday under the new Tier 3 measures. Credit: PA

He said figures on exposure settings showed hospitality was linked to 38% of cases.

Mr Rotheram said: "The numbers in our region have been increasing rapidly, infection rates have risen exponentially and there is the real and present danger that our NHS could be overwhelmed."

A £40 million support package for businesses set up by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority would be revised to take account of the new restrictions, Mr Rotheram said.

Mr Anderson said he would support the business community to bring a legal challenge to the Government funding package, which would see those unable to work because of restrictions given two thirds of their normal pay.

He said: "The businesses in Liverpool City Region have not brought this on themselves.

"It's central Government that have imposed the closure of their businesses and they rightly feel that they should be given financial support that was given in March this year.

"If that isn't the case, which it clearly isn't, then I think they have a right to ask for a judicial review of that decision or to challenge the Government in any way."