Sir Keir Starmer says the government must allow more pandemic decisions to be made locally, adding: "Greater Manchester is not being heard"

The Labour leader spoke to the Manchester Evening News after hearing from hospitality bosses in our region about how the ongoing coronavirus restrictions have shattered their industry this year.

Many have spent thousands of pounds making their venues covid-secure, only to be told they must stay shut under the Tier 3 rules due to come into affect at what should be the busiest time of the year.

Bar and restaurant owners have questioned the government's claim hospitality is a 'significant' driver of transmission and feel it is being unfairly singled out for blanket closures.

Meanwhile, there were reports on Sunday that the Prime Minister's cabinet was persuaded to put London in Tier 2 because of a briefing note that showed it would save more than 500,000 jobs compared with Tier 3.

The Mayor Andy Burnham suggested that showed 'jobs everywhere else don't matter as much' as he called for businesses forced to close under Tier 3 to get more financial support.

"It simply cannot be right or fair that Tier 1 Cornwall and the Isle of Wight are receiving the same level of business support as cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Hull," he said.

It is the latest in a string of decisions that have led to claims Boris Johnson's government has ignored local concerns, particularly in northern cities, during the pandemic.

"There's a deep frustration that Greater Manchester hasn't been heard, hasn't been listened to, and the way the government has dealt with Andy Burnham is further evidence of that," Sir Keir told the M.E.N.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has argued for more financial support for businesses forced to close

"Andy Burnham was standing up for his communities in a really difficult time, and instead of understanding and respecting that, the government got into a fight with him about the support that should have been put in for Greater Manchester.

"And that sense of not being listened to is very, very real.

"It's come through very strongly to me in the last few weeks and months.

"Not just the restrictions, but the work that businesses and communities have done in Greater Manchester to try and make sure they are covid safe, there's been a huge amount of time and money invested.

"And also I think a sense that the government hasn't appreciated that Greater Manchester has been under restrictions since the tail end of July, so we're not just arguing about the next few weeks, we're arguing about months and months of restrictions in Greater Manchester.

"And that's about basic respect and humility.

"The government needs to listen much more carefully to people in Greater Manchester."

Greater Manchester is about to enter Tier 3 after the national lockdown ends

The M.E.N reported last night how the government's attempts to hail mass-testing in Liverpool as a breakthrough for areas with high infection rates are seen as misleading by public health experts.

In fact, there are currently no such plans for it to be repeated in Greater Manchester with only a handful of Army personnel allocated.

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Instead, public health officials see concentrated testing of high-risk settings such as hospitals and schools as more effective.

Sir Keir said local leaders should have been engaged in pandemic decision-making much earlier, and that the government appears to be making the same mistakes over and over again.

Army personnel at the Wavertree Sports Centre in Liverpool

"Local leaders have been saying for a long time - 'we can do local test, trace and isolate far better than you can centrally'," he said.

"So instead of putting trace and isolate with local communities, the government put it on a national basis. Wrong approach again.

"Doing things nationally that can be better done locally.

"But secondly, the support that needs to go in."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

"What Andy was arguing about earlier in the autumn was the level of support that needs to go into Greater Manchester and the government simply wouldn't budge.

"And then, there was a slap in the face for the North West because the next thing they did on national lockdown was accede to the very things that Andy had been asking for but across the whole United Kingdom.

"And here we are again, on the verge the next decision, and we have people in communities in Greater Manchester feeling they're not being heard.

"It's one thing for the government to make mistakes early in the pandemic, but we're going round the same track again and the depth of feeling in Greater Manchester is something I completely understand."

Beyond arguing for a short-term change in strategy, Sir Keir said the pandemic has exposed 'what we knew before, which is that the one-size-fits all, Whitehall/Westminster approach doesn't really work any more in 21st century Britain.'

"I think we need to learn that the best decisions are usually the ones that are taken locally," he said.

"I want to ensure that a Labour government in 2024 is serious about power and resource closer to people in their communities, not hoarding it in Whitehall or Westminster.

"So there is a big question here. The pandemic has exposed something we knew was there, which is that there isn't enough devolution yet in the United Kingdom."