Leese: Local authorities must be ready for lift off post-outbreak

In the latest Greater Manchester Combined Authority coronavirus update, leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, called upon local authorities do what they can to ensure a fast recovery after the pandemic, while mayor Andy Burnham urged construction firms to close sites.

Responding to a question from Place North West at the council’s weekly meeting conducted via video link, Leese said: “Clearly our economy is taking a hit and we need to try and make sure that we keep as much going as possible so that when we come out of this crisis, we are able to get things under way as quickly as possible. 

“We urge all local authorities in Greater Manchester, to the extent that they have got capacity, to do what they can to make sure they are ready for lift off when we are able to return to anything like normal.” 

Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, agreed but said that it was perhaps too soon to be thinking about the economy as the peak of the outbreak nears. 

“As we go forward we do need to think about economic recovery. Our attention will turn at some point to the fiscal stimulus we need from government. We need to start thinking about that so we can bounce back as quickly as possible but that is not necessarily for now.” 

On the topic of construction sites, many of which are continuing to operate, Burnham urged firms to put the safety of staff first and close sites to help speed up economic recovery.

“There is a conflict between the safe distancing requirement and health and safety rules. This is a major concern and lots of members of the public have been in touch about it. If things can be done safely and that can be demonstrated then the Government has said that sites can stay open but we have received a number of reports that this is not the case.

“I want to reiterate that at this moment in time health has got to come first. If health and safety cannot be ensured then the right thing is to close.

“The quicker we deal with this and stop the spread of this virus, the quicker the economy will bounce back. It is message to all employers to please put the health and safety of your employees first and if you can’t guarantee it then do the responsible thing and close.”

The pair also confirmed that no other sites were currently being explored after the NHS chief executive announced Manchester Central Convention Centre would be used as an auxiliary hospital. Burnham said Metrolink services would be further reduced, after passenger numbers dropped below 10% of normal levels.

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