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14th December 2023

Andy Burnham criticises ‘London-centred’ policies at Covid inquiry

Burnham went on to accuse the Covid-19-era government of pushing stricter restrictions on Greater Manchester after he asked for more financing to help those who could not work during the pandemic
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Andy Burnham criticises ‘London-centred’ policies at Covid inquiry
Credit: The Institute of Government

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, made a statement at the Covid inquiry on November 27 about the ‘London-centred‘ approach of Covid-19 policy during 2020.

In this week’s inquiry, he has re-examined this and further questioned why the Manchester lockdowns were imposed so suddenly. 

Burnham went on to accuse the Covid-19-era government of pushing stricter restrictions on Greater Manchester after he asked for more financing to help those who could not work during the pandemic.

To the inquiry, he described the restrictions as a “punishment beating”, prescribed as a consequence of his outspoken discontent. 

In his statement, he recounted a phone call in October 2020 with a baffled Boris Johnson who seemed unaware that Manchester had been under heavy Covid restrictions since July of that year. 

One of the biggest points brought forward in Burnham’s testimony on Monday was his belief that the government allegedly prioritised “London-centricity” when making lockdown decisions. 

This is not a new complaint by Andy Burnham, who has questioned the government’s lack of focus on non-London areas during October 2022 and accused Johnson’s government of “exacerbating the north-south divide”.  

During his time in front of the Covid inquiry, Burnham expressed concern that there were no channels for politicians of devolved regions (like local mayors) to properly communicate with central government officials. 

Burnham stated that this meant Westminister was misunderstanding the impact their policies were having further up north whilst focusing on keeping London economically afloat.

This is a continuation of Burham’s Covid-19-era questioning of the lack of economic support for those in more Northern areas who were impacted by the pandemic.

The Covid-19 Inquiry remains ongoing as different witnesses are brought in front of the panel, as the government seeks to understand the decision-making processes that occurred in Whitehall during this time.

Nicknamed the ‘King of the North’ for his outspoken questioning of government lockdowns and his success at gaining financial support for those severely impacted, Burnham described the handling of restrictions as “chaotic”. 

During the latter half of 2020, the Greater Manchester mayor made headlines as he criticised the government for their lack of financial support for those unable to work.

 


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