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Bishop David Walker credit Diocese of Manchester-banner.jpg
Bishop David Walker credit Diocese of Manchester.jpg
UK News

Bishop of Manchester 'angry' with how the Gov't is treating the north as lockdown row continues

by Tola Mbakwe

The bishop of Manchester has voiced his concerns over how he feels the Government is treating the north of England in regards to coronavirus restrictions. 

Rt Rev David Walker has said "the urgent threat to our lives and livelihoods comes more from a Westminster lacking care and competence than from the virus itself".

His comments come as Mayor Andy Burnham blames Chancellor Rishi Sunak for being "the problem" in the row over a lockdown for Greater Manchester, and confusion is cast over talks with Downing Street.

The feud between No 10 and the Labour mayor continued on Saturday after Downing Street said fresh talks had been set up for the weekend, only for Mr Burnham's office to deny this.

Mr Burnham and Conservative politicians in Greater Manchester oppose Tier 3 measures being imposed, with the mayor calling for greater financial support for workers and businesses.

He has called for a return to the generosity of the original furlough scheme that saw the Treasury pay 80 per cent of workers' wages, but Mr Sunak has only offered a 66 per cent subsidy for those whose firms forced to shut by Tier 3 measures.

Bishop David has backed Mr Burham's demands. 

"If we're going to go into a higher level of restrictions, we need at least the kind of level of financial package that was there in the spring," he told Sky News. 

"If furlough is going, it's being replaced by something far less generous and very little support for business, what we need is a proper financial package so that people whose jobs and whose businesses go aren't the ones who are bearing the price for everybody else."

Mr Burnham and council leaders have insisted they "are ready to meet at any time" in order to broker an agreement with No 10 but there was a failure in communication on Saturday.

Downing Street indicated a call had been scheduled for Sunday morning after a message was left with Mr Burnham. But a spokesman for the mayor said: "Nothing has yet been arranged."

A Downing Street source responded: "No 10 reached out this morning to try and arrange a meeting with the Mayor of Manchester.

"We will continue to try and reach an agreement on these difficult, yet necessary, measures to protect the NHS and the people of Manchester."

But Prime Minister BorisJ ohnson on Friday threatened to impose measures without local support as he warned that "time is of the essence" and that "tragically more people will die" with each day of delay.

Bishop David accused Westminster of being ignorant to what life is like in the north and urged them to take a different approach. 

"Even the scientific advisors are saying they don't think that the Tier-3 proposals are going to work to get the coronavirus down. So we've got something not backed by science, not agreed with it with local leaders, and it just it just smacks of a kind of Westminster based mentality that has little care or little capacity to understand what life in the north of England is like," he said. 

"Politicians and perhaps people stuck in Westminster, stuck in the Downing Street bubble, may not have been really listening as carefully as they ought to over the months to the voices from the other parts of the country, including my own region, the Northwest. 

"I would urge government ministers, senior leaders, to get out here and to get a sense of what the feeling is on the ground, not to rely on how things come filtered through whatever bubble they're in.

"I believe that that God's love is undefeatable and that together, we will pull through this. But let's not do that to greater price. Let's find a way of doing that that holds us all together. That doesn't divide the north from the south."

The Liverpool City Region has secured an extra £30 million pounds in government help after entering the strictest category of coronavirus measures. It's already received £14 million to support the local test, trace and isolate system

Meanwhile, Lancashire joined the Liverpool region in entering Tier 3 on Saturday, meaning with pubs and bars closed unless they can serve meals and household mixing banned indoors and in gardens.

The Prime Minister has been favouring local measures to try to slow the spread of the disease, but on Friday acknowledged he "can't rule anything out" in taking national action.

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