Greater Manchester leaders told ‘door is open’ for further talks on Tier 3 support

Politics

Local leaders in Greater Manchester have been told that the “door is open” for further talks, despite the prime minister imposing Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions on the region.

Boris Johnson announced that tougher COVID-19 restrictions will be introduced in Greater Manchester from Friday.

Moving into Tier 3 means pubs and bars in Greater Manchester will be closed, unless they serve substantial meals, while betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas will also shut.

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PM confirms Tier 3 for Greater Manchester

Different households will also be banned from mixing indoors and outdoors, including in private gardens.

The PM revealed the move at a Downing Street briefing, just hours after the breakdown of talks with local leaders sparked a war of words.

The bitter row is expected to dominate exchanges between Mr Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

Meanwhile, Labour will table an opposition day debate motion in the Commons, calling for a “fair one nation deal” for areas facing being moved into Tier 3.

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Sir Keir said: “The prime minister and the chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic.

“We need a fair one nation deal that can help us through the second wave.”

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Burnham says government ‘walked away’ from talks

It comes as talks with local leaders in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East about moving their areas into Tier 3 are set to continue.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of “walking away” from the discussions during an impassioned news conference.

He said local leaders were not offered enough support to protect people through the “punishing” winter ahead.

Mr Burnham said politicians in Greater Manchester had originally wanted £90m – £15m a month until the end of the financial year – to protect the incomes of people affected by business closures.

He said civic leaders were prepared to reduce their demand for financial support to £65m, the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship”, but ministers would only offer £60m.

Mr Johnson said a “comprehensive package of support” was in place for areas put into Tier 3 restrictions, including the government’s Job Support Scheme and access to Universal Credit.

The PM said Greater Manchester would get £22m to implement and enforce the new measures.

Mr Johnson added that in addition to this support, a “generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses” was put on the table.

“This offer was proportionate to the support we have given Merseyside and Lancashire [the other areas in Tier 3], but the mayor didn’t accept this unfortunately,” the PM said.

The Liverpool City Region received £44m as it moved into Tier 3 (£14m for enforcement and £30m for businesses), while Lancashire got £42m (£12m for enforcement and £30m for businesses).

Downing Street has said the offer of £60m is still on the table.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has echoed this, saying: “Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”

Answering questions from MPs in the Commons, Mr Hancock indicated that the government could look at agreeing financial support borough by borough in Greater Manchester.

But Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds told Sky News that ministers will “get nowhere” with such an approach.

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How overwhelmed are Manchester hospitals?

MPs in the area reacted with anger to the £22m commitment.

Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central, said it was “utter spite” and “the idea of ‘all in this together’ has been totally shattered this week”.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, who represents Wigan, said: “This is bad faith, it’s immoral – just disgraceful.”

But Heywood and Middleton MP, Conservative Chris Clarkson, called for Mr Burnham to step aside and let local MPs and council leaders try and reach an agreement.

He wrote on Twitter: “Greater Manchester MPs wrote to Andy Burnham today to express our concern about his failure to come to an agreement with the government. The mayor now needs to let local MPs and council leaders have a go at getting a sensible settlement.”

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