Covid: Greater Manchester Tier 3 deadline passes - so what next?

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Romiliy Weeks

The government's deadline for an agreement on Tier 3 restrictions for Greater Manchester has passed, but it is still unclear whether local leaders and the government were able to make a deal.

The prime minister's spokesperson said Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Boris Johnson were speaking on the phone as the midday deadline passed, but was unable to reveal whether an agreement had been reached.

"The talks have been ongoing this morning. I am not in a position to confirm how that has been resolved," the spokesperson said.

Unless information is leaked, it is likely the people of Greater Manchester will find out about any new restrictions in a press conference due to be held by Mr Johnson in Downing Street at 5pm.

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

The PM's spokesperson said he will use the press conference - accompanied by England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis - to update the nation on the "next steps for Greater Manchester" regarding coronavirus.

Mr Burnham and Mr Johnson's phone call is an indication of positive progress towards a deal, with previous negotiations on Tuesday taking place between Downing Street and Greater Manchester officials.

Mr Burnham has been resisting entering Tier 3 restrictions in a bid to secure extra funding for businesses and workers in his region if they suffer due to a new lockdown.

It has been reported that Greater Manchester leaders want £75 million in additional support, on top of £22m to assist with the test and trace programme, compliance and enforcement.

The PM's spokesperson said talks are continuing with local leaders in the North West, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber about further coronavirus restrictions.

"That is part of the effort that we are making to create the maximum possible consensus behind the more strict kinds of local intervention," he said.

On restrictions for Greater Manchester specifically, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick had given local leaders until midday on Tuesday to agree to Tier 3 terms.

If nothing was agreed, the minister said the government would consider imposing the tougher measures on Greater Manchester anyway.

Despite resisting the restrictions, Mayor Burnham said he would not “break the law” if the government were to impose Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions on the region.

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The former Labour MP also accused the government of “penny pinching” in their response to local lockdown measures, as he looked to secure additional funding for low paid workers hit by the new restrictions.

Tier 3 restrictions, which are currently in place in the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire, ban people from meeting indoors, in any hospitality venue or private garden and pubs must close unless they serve meals at tables.

Mr Burnham, appearing on Sky News, insisted Greater Manchester "wouldn’t break the law" by defying the restrictions, if they were placed on the region against its will".

“We would obviously have to accept that decision, in the end it’s the government’s prerogative.

“But I would say to them at this point are they sure that that is a wise thing to do?”

The mayor, speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain, said: "I don’t think they should be imposing or dictating in this way. We need to work together as a country."

He added: “Greater Manchester needs to establish a fair financial framework for Tier 3.

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"There’s a fair chance that all parts of England will find themselves in Tier 3 at some point in the winter. If the terms aren’t right, we’re going to see real damage to people’s lives right across the country."

Government officials have maintained they want to agree a support package and have been reluctant so far to impose measures on Greater Manchester without an agreement with local leaders.

Wages for low paid workers have been a sticking point in negotiations, with Mr Burnham wanting workers to receive 80% of their normal wages, as they had done under the furlough scheme earlier this year.

The new support deal would see employees unable to work due to the restrictions given 67% of their full pay.

Shoppers in Manchester Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

Mr Burnham said: “If we go into a lockdown where we don’t support people who are in the lowest-paid professions we will have a mental health crisis on top of a pandemic.”

He added: “Tier 3 lockdowns affect the lowest-paid people in society, people who work in pubs, people who drive taxis, people who work on the doors in pubs.

“These are the people that Westminster politicians traditionally ignore.”

Mr Burnham said while he had been “impressed” by the chancellor’s actions during the summer, he said the government were now trying to respond to the crisis “on the cheap”.

He added: “It does appear there’s been an abrupt change since the summer, where it’s the opposite now.

“We’re trying to respond to a pandemic on the cheap, that’s how it feels.

“It’s particularly relevant isn’t it when you then come to a regional lockdown, because by definition these are going to be divisive, and if you don’t fully fund them you are going to widen the divides in society."

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said if an agreement was not reached by midday then it was “a matter for the prime minister".

In a statement, Mr Jenrick said "local leaders have been so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control."

He said the government had offered "an extensive package of support for local people and businesses", which was proportionate to the approach taken in other areas which have moved to the top tier - the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire.

Mr Jenrick said: "There are now more Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester hospitals than in the whole of the South West and South East combined. But, unfortunately, despite recognising the gravity of the situation, local leaders have been so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control.

"I have written to local leaders this evening to make clear that if we cannot reach agreement by midday tomorrow then I must advise the prime minister that, despite our best endeavours, we've been unable to reach agreement."