Burnham says Greater Manchester faces 'winter of hardship' after government 'walked away' from Tier 3 talks

It is now not clear what kind of support Greater Manchester will be offered to help deal with Tier 3 restrictions. Credit: PA

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has attacked the government for refusing to offer an extra £5 million in support to help the region through Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.

He said the government "walked away" from negotiations over financial support after refusing to offer enough money to "prevent a winter of real hardship" for the people of Greater Manchester.

Political leaders in the region had estimated that £65 million was the "bare minimum" needed to get to the end of the financial year, however Mr Burnham said the government "refused to accept this".

"That is what we believe we needed to prevent poverty, to prevent hardship, to prevent homelessness.

"Those were the figures that we had - not what we wanted - but what we needed to prevent all of those things from happening.

"But the Government refused to accept this and at 2pm today they walked away from negotiations.

"In summary, at no point today were we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter to come.

The mayor said he is "still willing to do a deal" but it "cannot be on the terms that the Government offered today".

Burnham added: "I don't think it is right to ask people to go into a lockdown, to accept further changes within their lives, without supporting them through all of that.

"How can we carry the public with us through this pandemic if we are forcing them to lose their income, their place of work, without supporting them through that?"

He called on Parliament to "intervene and make a judgement" on a fair financial framework for tier 3 lockdowns , adding how every part of the country should be concerned by the lack of support offered to areas put under tightened restrictions.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick earlier confirmed the negotiations had concluded without an agreement, meaning it is likely the region will enter the 'very high' alert level without the consent of local leaders.

In a statement he said Mr Burnham had been "unwilling to take the action that is required" to slow the spread of Covid-19 in his region.

It is now not clear what kind of financial support the region will receive, with a government source telling ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand: "That will have to be determined. £60m was part of a negotiation, he has walked away from that."

Mr Burnham said: "If the Government put £60 million on the table, I mean, surely, if they are taking that off again, is that a game of poker? Are they playing poker with places? And people's lives through a pandemic? Is that what this is about?

"Are they piling pressure on people to accept the lowest figure that they can get away with? Is that what this is about?"

Under Tier 3 in Greater Manchester, all hospitality venues - except those serving food - will close for 28 days, as well as all betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres, and soft play areas.

Local leaders initially wanted £90 million in financial support for businesses and staff in Greater Manchester, but they reduced their demand to £75 million, and then further to £65 million, but the government refused to budge, according to Mr Burnham.

The leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese said local leaders twice thought they had an agreement with the Government on a financial support package, only to be let down.

"In the discussions we have had over the last couple of days we have thought twice they were going to be able to meet us in being able to support that package," he told the press conference.

"Twice when it has got to the end of the day they have let us down and they are letting the people of Manchester down."

Sir Richard said they had still not seen anything in writing from the Government on what conditions it was seeking to attach to any additional funding.

It is expected Greater Manchester will soon move from 'high' alert to 'very high' alert. Credit: PA

"Even the money that they were talking about we still have no idea what cond

itions they would attach to that money," he said.

Mayor Burnham held last minute talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as the midday deadline passed on Tuesday, aimed at securing the additional financial support.

But shortly after it was revealed the discussions had failed to reach an agreement.

Mr Jenrick said in a statement: "I'm 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 in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the Government.

"I have therefore advised the Prime Minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a press conference at 5pm in which he will update the country on the "next steps for Greater Manchester".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the breakdown in talks "is a sign of Government failure".

Manchester Central Labour MP Lucy Powell wrote on Twitter: "Just for some context, the money the Treasury recently clawed back from GM in business cash grants from March/April lockdown stands at £88 million.

"So Government TOOK BACK £88m in Covid business support but now won't give less than this to support GM businesses now."

She claimed the government "clearly doesn't really care about supporting businesses and protecting jobs AND protecting health because they are prepared to cause huge breakdown over £5m (a tiny fraction of what they've spent elsewhere)".

"This is politics at its worst, not public health."

The government has been seeking to impose Tier 3 rules on Greater Manchester for several days in a bid to stem the accelerating spread of coronavirus.

Covid tiers: - What are the differences between each alert level?

  • Medium (Tier 1) - Rule of six applies indoors and outdoors. Pubs and restaurants close at 10pm.

  • High (Tier 2) - Households must not mix indoors in any setting including pubs and restaurants. Rule of six applies outdoors

  • Very high (Tier 3) - Households must not mix indoors, or in private gardens. Rule of six applies in outdoor spaces including parks. Pubs and bars which don't serve meals will be closed

After ten days of talks, Greater Manchester was issued an ultimatum by Mr Jenrick, who gave local leaders until midday Tuesday to agree a deal or else restrictions would be imposed unilaterally.

Government projections estimated the region's Intensive Care Units could be overwhelmed by the start of November is no additional measures were imposed.

Tier 3 restrictions, which are currently in place in the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire, ban people from meeting indoors, and hospitality venues except those serving food are forced to close.