Ann McGauran 20 October 2020

Greater Manchester will move into Tier 3 as talks collapse

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Greater Manchester will head into Tier 3 restrictions on Friday after talks with local leaders broke up without a deal.

Local leaders are reported to have asked for £65m in financial support, but it emerged that health secretary Matt Hancock told Greater Manchester MPs this evening they would instead get a package of £22m.

Speaking at a press conference tonight, the Prime Minister said the £22m was 'additional to other support' and that Greater Manchester will have access to other funds, particularly for test and trace. But he said he could not make a deal with Greater Manchester that was 'out of kilter' with what was on offer to Liverpool and Lancashire, which are already in Tier 3.

Mr Johnson said Greater Manchester has had £160m of extra funding.

At a press conference this evening, metro mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the £65m demanded by the region was the 'bare minimum', and called on parliament to intervene, saying that MPs should 'decide what a fair offer is'. He said a 'winter of hardship' lay ahead.

Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said  council leaders have 'still not had anything in writing' about what is proposed by Government, and that it had failed to provide evidence that shutting bars would stop the virus spreading.

Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett said other councils were fully behind the Greater Manchester proposals, and that they had gone into the talks in 'good faith' and had taken an evidence-based approach. He said it was 'really disappointing' the Government did not back their proposals.

The failure to reach agreement on funding to support the move from Tier 2 to Tier 3 restrictions comes after 10 days of discussions between the Government and local leaders, including MPs and mayors.

Ealier today mayor Burnham criticised the Government’s ‘provocative’ late-night warning yesterday that local leaders had until midday today to either agree to the highest level of restrictions or face having them imposed unilaterally.

He added that health is ‘not just about controlling the virus’ and that people’s mental health will suffer if ‘punishing lockdowns are imposed’ over the winter.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick told the Prime Minister the discussions had broken up without a deal, saying he was ‘disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control’.

Tier 3 restrictions will now be imposed for 28 days, with the closure of all pubs and bars unless they are serving substantial meals, along with the closure of betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas.

Earlier today Sir Richard Leese said the region’s leaders were prepared to drop one of their key demands – for hospitality workers to be paid 80% of their wages as furlough.

In a joint statement yesterday, Mayor Burnham and Sir Richard said they had written to the Prime Minister reiterating their willingness to continue to work towards an agreement but reminding him that Greater Manchester has been in Tier 2 style restrictions for almost three months.

The statement read: ‘With this in mind, we do not believe it is in any way unreasonable for us to require better protection for our lowest-paid residents.’

How are the local politics of the Government’s three-tier system of ‘postcode lockdowns’ in England playing out, and will the new approach be enough to bring infection rates down once again? (£)

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