The mayor of Manchester has shared his ideas about how the country should be stepping back into normality following the coronavirus pandemic.
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said during Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: ‘We need to start thinking about building a better economy, building back better.
‘One of the other ideas I would put forward today is that ongoing government support for businesses should be linked to good employment standards and particularly payment of the real living wage.’
‘Things aren’t going to be the same,’ he said, adding: ‘We need to be honest with the public about all of that.’
A National Recovery Council made up of voices from the regions, trade unions and business should be established to build consensus around the tough decisions that lie ahead, he said.
He explained: ‘If you take a standards-led approach, you’re putting health and safety at the heart of this release from lockdown, and that’s the way to go in my view.
‘It would be overseen by the Health and Safety Executive, but it would allow businesses in all parts of the economy to innovate – perhaps to change the way they work, limit the number of employees that they have in work – but at least it would give them a route back.’
He added: ‘I worry that if we’re going down the sectoral approach, it could have heavy consequences for a city like Manchester, or say Blackpool – a town that really depends on tourism and hospitality.
‘So the impact of a sectoral approach could hit certain places hard, so what I’m saying to the Prime Minister is think about a standards-led approach and actually create a National Recovery Council because we all need to have a voice in this debate.
‘And these decisions that you are about to take are crucial to the economy of the north west of England and we need to be in the room debating it with you.’
Burnham said the Health and Safety Executive would decide whether businesses can put effective social distancing measures in place to reopen, and if procedures are not being followed ‘there could be an investigation and people could be required to close again’.
He added: ‘We need to start thinking about building a better economy, building back better.
‘So one of the other ideas I would put forward today is that ongoing Government support for businesses should be linked to good employment standards and particularly payment of the real living wage.’
Burnham added that former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has ‘some questions to answer’ on Whitehall’s pandemic planning.
The Labour politician said: ‘I think we’re going to see, in time, an inquiry into this one to say that things could’ve… should’ve been done better.
‘And I’ve been quite supportive of some of the ways the health secretary (Matt Hancock) has handled things, but I think his predecessor, the former health secretary (Jeremy Hunt), has some questions to answer because I don’t believe the plans put in place were as robust as they needed to be – but those questions are for another day and it is not for now.’