ANDY Burnham has slammed the government over its handling of Greater Manchester’s lockdown and said the city-region has been put in ‘a very difficult position’.

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC News Channel this morning, the Greater Manchester Mayor encouraged all Greater Manchester to avoid mixing with other households indoors.

The mayor explained that Bolton council’s Conservative leader and Trafford council’s Labour leader had both ‘pleaded’ with central government not to lift the restrictions in their boroughs.

The rules had prevented residents in those areas from mixing with people from other households indoors and in private gardens, but from midnight last night, those rules no longer apply in Trafford, Stockport and Bolton.

Mr Burnham said: “I’m afraid that plea was ignored. It’s a very difficult position to be in, we’re on the frontline of fighting this virus and we’ve got this Whitehall knows best approach, well – they don’t. They should listen to what leaders of councils are saying.

“They gave a role to MPs and there are different views among MPs. But I’ve been an MP and I can vouch for the fact that MPs are not public health experts. Directors of Public Health should be the most important voice in this and in both councils the Directors of Public Health were saying ‘please don’t lift these restrictions’.

“It’s frustrating to say that least that we find ourselves in a position this morning where boroughs with rising cases are seeing the restrictions lifted overnight and neighbouring boroughs are still under the restrictions with much lower cases.

“No wonder the public is getting confused here. We really need, urgently, to agree an exit strategy from all of this with the government that can hopefully bring the public back on board.”

Sir Graham Brady, the influential Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West in Trafford, publicly announced he wished to see the restrictions lifted in Trafford. Mr Burnham said he believed Conservative MPs had ‘played a role’ in the government’s decision.

The former Leigh MP said: “I’d be interested to hear from Graham today. Trafford is not in a good position with regard to cases and what the Director for Public Health was saying has been borne out to be true.

“We need to get away from a debate about who said what to who. We’ve got to get back to a situation where national government is consulting, negotiating, agreeing with local government about what needs to be done.

“Particularly when you have a Conservative and Labour leader both saying to the government yesterday ‘leave things as they are’, it’s disappointing to say the least that that was ignored.”

In terms of the exit strategy Mr Burnham wants to see, he called for the national test and trace system to be put under more local control.

He said: “We will take responsibility for it.”

He also called for more financial support for those forced to self isolate. People on low wages, people who are self employed. We’re finding out they’re finding it very hard to take 14 days off work with no money.”

Currently the government is offering the equivalent of £13 a day for those self isolating. Mr Burnham believes this is not enough to live off and called for people’s full wages to be covered for the full 14 days.

Mr Burnham even encouraged the people of Greater Manchester to ignore central government’s lifting of restrictions in the three boroughs affected – by NOT going round to other people’s homes.

He said: “Right now it isn’t sensible to have social gatherings at home because we are finding that there is a lot of spread of the virus because of that. So, particularly this week with schools going back and people beginning to return to the office.

“I’m not just going to sit here if [the government] are getting it wrong and go quiet. That isn’t doing my job. I’ve got to represent the people of Greater Manchester. We want a change here in terms of the way things are being done.

“We cannot have Whitehall sitting there saying ‘we know best, we’re going to impose our judgement’.”