GREATER Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has joined northern leaders in an open letter asking for further lockdown financial support for those who need it.

With the number of positive cases rising in most parts of the North, the letter says that the "health of our residents is paramount and we need to take whatever evidence-based measures are needed."

Earlier this week in meetings with civil servants, Mayors and local leaders were updated on the government’s plans for restrictions in their areas. The letter signers, including Mr Burnham and the Mayors of the Liverpool and Sheffield City Regions, said that they welcomed the meetings.

However, they were also told that the financial package announced by the Chancellor on Friday afternoon was final and was not open for negotiation - something they "have great difficulties with."

They say the support package is not sufficient to protect communities through the challenging period which lies ahead, citing the local furlough scheme that is set at 67% of a person's wages.

They also call Chancellor Rishi Sunak's more general package "woefully inadequate."

The letter says: "While it may be possible for people on middle or higher earnings to live on two thirds of their salary, that is not the case for the low-paid staff who work in hospitality. They do not have the luxury of being able to pay only two thirds of their rent or their bills."

The letter also cites the timing of the scheme and highlights concerns that the local furlough scheme will be limited to businesses forced to shut.

They say that they believe that any local furlough scheme should be much more widely available to businesses in areas with the highest level of restrictions who can demonstrate a severe impact on trade arising from them.

The letter also calls the general business support package from Rishi Sunak "woefully inadequate."

It says: "Whilst we acknowledge the Chancellor’s move in increasing the existing payment to businesses forced to close in lockdown areas, £3,000 per month – or less for many smaller businesses - may not be anything like enough to prevent businesses from collapsing after what has already been an extremely difficult year.

"Many are now on a knife-edge and this payment will not be enough to save them. Again, we fail to understand why a local lockdown does not attract a business support package equal to that provided during national lockdown given that the effect is the same. More broadly, tougher local restrictions will have an impact on businesses across the local economy and we believe that there is a strong case for a discretionary grant scheme under the control of local authorities to help them."

The letter concludes : "For the reasons we have given above, to accept the Chancellor’s package at this point would be to surrender our residents, your constituents, to severe hardship in the run-up to Christmas. We are not prepared to do that.

"It would also run the risk of significant redundancies and multiple business failures. That would cause long-term damage to the already fragile economies of large parts of Northern England and weaken the recovery when it finally comes. It would do the precise opposite of what the Government was elected to do and level down the North."

The signers have subsequently urged the government to work with other members in parliament to improve the support available.