Mayor reveals 'exit strategy' plans for Greater Manchester post-lockdown measures

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 6:18pm

By Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter @niallgriffiths

The mayor of Greater Manchester has spelled out how he believes tighter coronavirus measures should be lifted across the city-region.

Andy Burnham (pictured) has called for an end to ‘crude blanket restrictions’ that are becoming ‘less effective’ despite initially helping to stop rising infection rates.

A ‘more sophisticated’ exit strategy which puts local leaders at the heart of decision-making has been proposed, with Mr Burnham arguing that they are better placed to know when to impose tougher restrictions ‘as a last resort’.

This would avoid the confusion experienced by residents and councillors in Trafford and Bolton where restrictions were lifted and reinstated within 12 hours after a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Health secretary Matt Hancock is aware of the as-yet uncosted exit strategy, with Mr Burnham stressing that politics would be kept out of any future arrangements.

He said: “This is about having the right solution for Greater Manchester that protects people’s health but also allows them to return safely to school and the office.”

On Wednesday the mayor outlined the issues that would form the exit strategy, beginning with a call for a ‘major reallocation of resources’ to councils to improve test and trace locally.

The national system has been subject to constant criticism from Mr Burnham, who has repeatedly said that it is ‘not good enough yet’.

By receiving either more money or manpower from the government, councils could use their local knowledge to build ‘door-to-door’ operations and deliver targeted interventions.

Mr Burnham also wants the government to commit further funding to support people in low-income jobs who would be unable to work from home if asked to self-isolate

The government has agreed to pilot ‘isolation payments’ of £13 a day to those on Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit living in Oldham, Blackburn and Pendle.

But this does not go far enough according to Mr Burnham, who said that it should be treated as jury service and those taking part should be compensated as such.

He added: “The health secretary has already told us that he couldn’t live on £13 a day, and who can live on that?”

Mr Burnham also wants local councils to keep putting out ‘sensible’ advice about minimising mixing of families indoors after household transmission was found to be a major reason behind soaring rates in Oldham last month.

But above all Mr Burnham wants a change in the local to national balance that gives local authorities and their communities a greater say on what restrictions – if any – are needed if the Covid-19 situation picture deteriorates.

He said: “We are closer to our communities, and it’s time to put councils and therefore local communities in control of these restrictions.

“Wwe need to do all of the preventative measures that I’ve spoken about through a localised test and trace operation but having those restrictions then as a last resort.

“It currently looks like the only resort, the gov isn’t doing the earlier things but is just taking these quite high handed decisions just to impose restrictions on communities.

“That isn’t the way to go.”

Mr Burnham said that each of the Greater Manchester councils was drawing up how much it would cost to implement the measures hinted at in the strategy.

He added that the sum ‘won’t be exorbitant’ and that some of the resources, whether it is money or staffing, may already be available in the national track and trace system.

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