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Manchester: representing the North-South power struggle

The government has a track record of mistreating Manchester, from Margaret Thatcher’s conscious policy to destroy the city’s heavy industries, to the limited assistance the city received in 2010 when the Multiple Deprivation Index announced it had the fourth most deprived local council in the country, the government has always played a role in how the city functions. 

The city’s elected officials and Johnson’s government have come to blows over something as devastating and divisive as COVID-19, which comes as no surprise. Earlier this month the Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, and the government challenged each other when the Prime Minister refused Burnham’s request for £90 million in the event of a Tier 3 lockdown, stating it would be “unfair” to fund the city more than other North West regions.

Burnham’s request garnered a number of responses, including criticism for his attempt to fend off a complete lockdown within the region, and his response to Johnson’s lowballing. The aforementioned £90 million, which was entirely costed by city officials, was denied and instead a suggested £60 million budget was offered by the government. The same government who forked out £10 billion for a widely unpopular Covid-19 test and trace programme. 

Burnham has lowered the request to £65 million, stating it’s the “bare minimum” required for the region to survive tighter restrictions, but a £5 million difference is more representative of the power struggle between the two sides. The idea that the Covid-19 cases within these areas can be dealt with without proper financing is political. The reason the Mancunian mayor fought so hard for the city to remain in tier two is Manchester is a city which works through human interaction. The Office for National Statistics found “jobs based in workplaces in London and the South East are much more likely to be possible to do from home compared with the rest of the UK”. Burnham maintains the difficult job of balancing people’s health and livelihoods. 

The government’s duty of care towards Manchester, the Midlands, and the North has been shirked massively. Since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown, the government has been focused on London and the South, demonstrated when Britain slowly relaxed the regulations while cases were still rising within cities like Newcastle. The increase in cases which occurred over the summer months could be linked to the diminished restrictions in May. Burnham himself described the actions as “London-centric”, because much of the Midlands and North had yet to see the decreases in deaths and cases experienced within the capital. 

The response to Covid-19 has illuminated a new North-South divide, with Andy Burnham desperately attempting to negotiate with a government which has been incredibly clumsy and made stupid mistakes which has not only cost the country, but also cost lives.

03/11/2020

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