Can mayors refuse to enforce coronavirus rules?

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The Mayor of Greater Manchester accused the Government of walking out of talks after refusing to provide a £65 million bailout for ailing businesses and workers. He said local leaders were not offered enough support to protect people through the “punishing” winter ahead. Greater Manchester will enter Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions from Friday, but can Mr Burnham refuse this move?

Greater Manchester will move to England’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions from 0.01am on Friday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “not to act now” would place the lives of Manchester residents “at risk”.

He added a “generous” offer of financial support had been made to the region, but Mr Burnham refused.

The Greater Manchester Mayor said he had not been offered enough to “protect the poorest people in our communities”.

Greater Manchester is currently under tier two rules.

This means pubs and restaurants must close at 10pm and no household mixing indoors is allowed.

The rule of six, face-covering rules and social distancing rules must be observed.

Under Tier 3 rules, pubs and bars not serving substantial meals have to close and all household mixing is banned both indoors and outdoors.

There is also guidance against travel in and out of areas.

What is a directly elected mayor?

Directly elected mayors are chairs of their areas’ combined authority.

They are elected officials who have in partnership with the combined authority, powers and functions devolved from Government.

The exact powers of a mayor are set out in the local area’s devolution deal.

There currently are nine regions with directly elected mayors: Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the West of England, Sheffield City Region, North of Tyne and Greater London.

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What responsibilities do mayors and combined authorities have?

The devolved powers and the level of funding varies across the combined authorities.

All directly elected mayors will have responsibility for franchised bus services, only some will have responsibility for new key route networks of local authority roads.

You can find a full list of all the current mayors and their powers and priorities here.

Can mayors refuse to enforce coronavirus rules?

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said he was prepared to defy lockdown restrictions announced by the Government earlier this month.

In a video statement after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a ban on all social mixing between different households in the Liverpool city region, Warrington, Hartlepool and Middlesborough.

Mr Preston said: “I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance.

“I do not accept the statement at all. I do not accept these measures.

“We need to talk to the Government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being.”

He added: “As things stand, we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.

“We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.”

However, so far no mayors have directly disobeyed coronavirus rules, and Mr Burnham in a press conference today urged his residents to adhere to the law.

Directly elected mayors essentially control transport, social care and public services, housing and police across a region which covers 10 local authority areas.

They deal with leaders of all local authorities and bring them together to guide a strategy for the whole region.

These mayors enjoy far better access to secretaries of state than do most backbench MPs and they have the power to convene local public service leaders to sort out problems which require coordination.

Mayors will start with powers over transport, the further education system, business support, support to get people off benefits and into work, and, in the case of Manchester, some powers over health and social care.

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