Greater Manchester’s leaders react to Tier 3 decision

Greater Manchester’s political leaders have criticised the government’s decision to place the area under the strictest coronavirus rules – but Rochdale’s leader has welcomed the news.

Trafford’s director for public health, Eleanor Roaf, said she doesn’t believe Greater Manchester is being ‘punished’.

She said: “I think really, unfortunately, in Greater Manchester we happen to have a lot of things that put our population at greater risk – more people in lower paid work, more people doing face to face work and more people in factories.

“Unfortunately we already have an unhealthy population too. Our life expectancy and healthy life expectancy is under the national average and we have a higher proportion of people with underlying health conditions too. This isn’t about punishment – fairness and unfairness don’t come into this.”

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She added that the NHS in Greater Manchester is always been under ‘huge’ pressure.

But a number of leaders from across the political spectrum fear for local businesses and people across the region after the decision was announced this morning.

The region’s mayor Andy Burnham said: “It isn’t equal treatment. It’s as simple as that. When we had higher cases and cases rising, we were left on our own. When London and the South East have them it looks like everyone has to have them.

Labour’s Andy Burnham served as the Leigh’s MP for 16 years before becoming Greater Manchester’s mayor
(Image: Vincent Cole Manchester Evening News)

“The difference is in the past this would have been done and we just wouldn’t have fought back but I think we are fighting back a bit more now than we have been.”

Andrew Western, Trafford council’s Labour leader, said he was ‘concerned’ for his residents’ wellbeing.

He said: “Trafford’s coronavirus rate is significantly better than the national average and I am concerned about the wider health and wellbeing impacts these restrictions have.

“That said this is a precarious time in the fight against coronavirus, with Christmas coming up. I would encourage all residents to continue to follow the government’s guidance and to be sensible about household mixing over the festive period.”

Sir Richard Leese, Manchester’s council leader, said: “I cannot say that this is not bitterly disappointing so close to Christmas. For many of our businesses the possibility of trading, even in a limited way, would have been a brief respite in what has been a devastating year.

Sir Richard Leese
(Image: Joel Goodman)

“So many sectors of our economy have faced disappointment after disappointment this year, made worse by a government unresponsive to the dire situation they were in.

“As a council we will continue to fight for them and to ensure a fair deal for the people who make our city the vibrant and thriving place it is. Had this decision been made a few weeks ago I’m certain we would be in Tier 2.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Graham Brady, Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, said: “The statement will be greeted with dismay in Greater Manchester, where we have had severe restrictions for nine months, where in nine of the 10 boroughs rates are below the national average.

Sir Graham Brady said lockdowns “cost lives as well as livelihoods”
(Image: PA)

“My constituents have behaved responsibly and our rates are lower than they are in neighbouring Warrington or in neighbouring Cheshire, which have been put into tier 2 and are also lower than they are in Bristol, which has been moved from tier 3 to tier 2.

“What exactly do we have to do to be moved out of tier 3?”

Bolton South East’s Labour MP, Yasmin Qureshi, said: “Another frustrating day for Bolton. Feels like the goalposts are constantly shifting. I will continue to represent businesses, particularly those hardest hit in our hospitality sectors.”

Bolton West’s Conservative MP, Chris Green, confirmed he’d voted against the tier system, but blamed a ‘London-led Labour’ for not doing so.

Christian Wakeford, Conservative MP for Bury South, said: “We have made a strong case that, as infection rates have come down significantly, we should have allowed our hospitality businesses to open to so that they could make the most of the festive period.

MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford, said more frequent services were needed in order to solve any issues of overcrowding
(Image: Copyright Unknown)

“I would ask all Bury residents to continue to follow the rules so at the next Tier review we can be in an even stronger position to make the call to move down to Tier 2.”

Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, said: “We now seem trapped in Tier 3, no matter what. This feels like the government is so nervous about the mess they’ve made of the Christmas relaxation rules, that we are being pre-emptively punished ahead of any new year spike.”

Mary Robinson, Conservative MP for Cheadle, tweeted: “Disappointed. A strong case has been made against treating the boroughs as a single entity, and many of our local hospitality and leisure venues have worked incredibly hard to be Covid-safe.”

Mary Robinson, Conservative MP for Cheadle
(Image: Copyright Unknown)

Jude Wells, Stockport council’s Labour cabinet member for health, tweeted: “We know today’s news is a blow for Stockport residents and businesses given everything people are doing to keep each other safe. We thank everyone for continuing to safeguard yourselves, your families and our community. Together we are strong.”

Coun Andrea Simpson, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Bury council, said: “I’m as frustrated as everyone else that we are living under restrictions that have lasted for months, but our infection rate is still close to the national average at around 200.

“It’s so important that we don’t lose sight of the prize, just when there is real cause for optimism that we can finally get on top of the virus.”

But Coun Allen Brett, Labour leader of Rochdale council, struck a different tone. His borough currently has the highest infection rate across the city-region; 206.8 per 100,000 people.

Rochdale council leader Allen Brett
Rochdale council leader Allen Brett
(Image: Alan Hamer)

He said: “We believe that remaining in tier 3 is necessary until there has been a bigger fall in our infection rate. We are still very concerned about the infection rate, and how the recent decline in the number of cases has slowed.

“Remaining in tier 3 gives us the best chance of limiting the impact of a third wave of infections which the experts are telling us to expect after Christmas. We know it is incredibly difficult for our businesses who are already suffering but it is vital that we continue to control the virus at this crucial stage.”

Oldham, Wigan and Salford’s MPs have remained quiet on social media about the announcement this afternoon.

(Image: PA)

Replying to Sir Graham Brady’s concerns in the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, said: “I understand my right honourable friend’s disappointment at this decision.

“We looked very closely at Trafford, at Stockport, at Tameside, at nearby High Peak to take a different decision for them. The challenge is that each time that we’ve done that in the past, we’ve then seen cases rebound and there continues to be significant pressure on the NHS across the North West, including in Manchester.

“I look forward to working with him and people right across Manchester to get this sorted.”

|Ma Evening Post