Government row with 'Bully Burnham' threatens plan for more mayors

Government row with Manchester’s ‘Bully Burnham’ over Covid support threatens plan to appoint more local mayors as PM’s enthusiasm cools

  • Ministers are reviewing plans to appoint more local mayors in England’s North
  • Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Lancashire were predicted to get elected ones
  • Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm has cooled after Andy Burnham defied the PM 

Ministers are reviewing plans to appoint more local mayors in the wake of the row with Manchester mayor Andy Burnham over the city’s lockdown.

A senior party source said that anger over what the Ministers described as ‘Burnham’s bully pulpit’ performance would lead to a serious rethink of the mayor programme.

Last year, Boris Johnson made clear his determination to press ahead with creating more mayors. Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Lancashire were predicted to get directly elected ones.

In a speech to the Convention of the North in Rotherham, South Yorkshire last year, Mr Johnson boldly declared: ‘We are going to do devolution properly. 

Ministers are reviewing plans to appoint more local mayors in the wake of the row with Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (pictured) over the city’s lockdown

‘We are going to maximise the power of the North with more mayors across the whole of the North.’

The Tories’ election manifesto last December also declared: ‘Our ambition is for full devolution across England, building on the successful devolution of powers to city region mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners and others, so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny.’

Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm has cooled after Mr Burnham used his position as Greater Manchester Mayor to defy the PM over imposing strict Tier 3 anti-virus measures on his region

But The Mail on Sunday understands Mr Johnson’s enthusiasm has cooled after Mr Burnham used his position as Greater Manchester Mayor to defy the PM over imposing strict Tier 3 anti-virus measures on his region.

Mr Burnham, dubbed ‘King in the North’ by admirers, infuriated No 10 by appearing to wrong-foot them in negotiations over extra cash for business affected by the lockdown measures.

The row has been given added impetus by the devolved administrations in London, Wales and Scotland piling pressure on the PM to impose tighter Covid restrictions.

Separately, London Mayor Sadiq Khan is locked in acrimonious discussions with the Government over a financial package for the capital’s public transport network, which has been hit hard by plunging fare revenues in the pandemic.

A source close to the London Mayor said: ‘Sadiq cannot accept a deal in which Londoners would face higher fares, higher council tax, a hugely increased congestion charge zone and concessions for children and over-60s being scrapped in return for the same financial support that is being given to the private train companies with no strings attached.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured) is locked in acrimonious discussions with the Government over a financial package for the capital’s public transport network, which has been hit hard by plunging fare revenues in the pandemic

‘The Government is also insisting that they are unable to give anything more than six months of funding to TfL, meaning we will be left negotiating a new financial deal just before the next mayoral election.

‘In contrast, the private train operating companies have been given 18 months of funding.’

The source said that if the Government refuses to provide an adequate financial package to TfL, it could ultimately force a huge reduction of transport services across the city.

‘This would be catastrophic – for TfL, for Londoners, for London’s businesses and for the country’s economy.’ 

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