York is 'the part of the North that looks most like the South', says Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester's metro mayor has come under fire from locals in York after describing the city as the "part of the North that looks most like the South".

Andy Burnham was forced to defend his online comment in response to reports in a national newspaper that York was being considered as a potential second centre of government.

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He wrote on Twitter: "Memo to the Government: moving an unelected House to a part of the North that looks most like the South won’t “level up” the country."

The remark prompted angry responses from people in York. One Twitter used described it as a "disappointing & misguided sweeping generalisation".

They added: "People see the chocolate box image of the Minster & bar walls and assume it represents York as a whole. I can assure you it doesn't. Affordable housing, job security & people relying on food banks are a big concern here too."

One Twitter user, Mike Cordingley, accused the former Labour Cabinet Minister of "disparaging" York, adding: "The North takes many forms and all of them are worthy."

Mr Burnham replied: "Not disparaging it Mike - I’m praising it! It’s a lovely place. If the whole of the North was like York then we would be truly levelled up."

York city centre. The city is reportedly being considered as a second centre of government.

Another Twitter user, Sue Mendus, wrote: "Oh dear! This is a misunderstanding of York, which is indeed a lovely city, with a superb Minster.

"But (sadly) we do also have food banks, and homeless people, and hungry children. We had it in Joseph Rowntree's day and we have it now. We do."

Yesterday Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove confirmed parts of the Civil Service are to be moved out of central London to other areas of the UK.

Departments have reportedly been given two weeks to submit plans to transfer officials to regional hubs, with York one of a number of potential sites.

It follows reports in January that Prime Minister Boris Johnson intended to move the House of Lords permanently to the city and that the York Central site, next to York Station, had been identified as the ideal location for a purpose-built second chamber.

Mr Gove told the BBC the move would help to distribute “opportunity, jobs and investment fairly” across the country.

However proposals to move the House of Lords from the Palace of Westminster to York, he said, are a “matter for Parliament”.