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Burnham warns of ‘stark’ regional divides getting worse unless recovery is handled correctly

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 7:25am

By Niall Griffiths - Local Democracy Reporter

Andy Burnham has urged the government to stick to its promise of levelling up the country ‘with a vengeance’ as the north bids to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.

Concerns were also raised that local authorities serving poorer communities, mainly in the north west, have had their government funding cut compared to areas where the virus has been less prevalent.

In Greater Manchester, Salford council’s allocation has fallen by £1.7 million from the first round of funding – despite the city recording the highest recorded death rate in the UK in recent months.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there 112 deaths per 100,000 people between March 1 and April 18.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has also insisted that not all coronavirus-related costs will be covered by the government.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham, Mr Burnham said: “Last week the government removed the deprivation weighting in the COVID-19 grant funding allocation. 

“The reality of this virus has been that it has targeted the most deprived communities aggressively. There is a pretty stark north-south divide. 

“We have to preserve a sense of national unity and we do have to hold [the government] to account for the levelling up promise that has been made.

“I said to the prime minister that it’s not just the case that levelling up has to come back, it has to come back with a vengeance in this period.”

Calls have been made for the government to ‘get serious’ about creating jobs and investing in people post-pandemic to avoid young people and older workers ‘ending up on the scrapheap’.

Mr Burnham said solving the housing crisis should also be made an immediate priority, claiming that overcrowding and a lack of high-quality housing has helped the virus spread.

“Now is the moment to free up combined authorities and councils to build thousands of new zero-carbon, modular homes for social rent,” he added.

“The government needs to accelerate its ambitions and that means giving significant resources and power to the Liverpool city-region, Greater Manchester and others to face up to what lies ahead of us and build a better future.”

Both mayors were speaking at the conference to launch their ‘Build Back Better’ campaign which aims to ‘reset’ the region once lockdown has been lifted.

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