Covid: Johnson urged to 'stop bargaining with people's lives' over support for areas under Tier 3

Credit: PA

Sir Kier Starmer has urged the Prime Minister to "stop bargaining with people's lives" over financial support for areas under Tier 3.

At PMQ's the Leader of the Opposition said the current support for areas in Tier 3 is not enough, saying people would be losing part or all of their incomes while their rent and mortgages stayed the same.

Sir Kier accused Boris Johnson of "crossing a Rubicon" over the "miserly" way he has treated Greater Manchester and the "grubby take it or leave it" deals signed with other local leaders who have been put under Tier 3.

He said the government needed to "stop bargaining with people's lives, stop dividing communities and provide the support that is needed in Manchester".

Mr Johnson said Greater Manchester had already received more than £1 billion in support and revealed the area would be getting the £60 million mayor Andy Burnham rejected on Tuesday.

Talks between leaders of Greater Manchester collapsed without a deal on Tuesday forcing the government to put the area under Tier 3 without local support.

The two sides were unable to find an agreement despite their positions being only £5m apart.

Sir Kier also pressed the prime minister on the exit strategy for areas under Tier 3.

He highlighted comments by the chief scientific advisor and other top health officials who said Tier 3 measures would not be enough to bring R (the rate of transmission between people) in the area below one.

He said Tier 3 was "the worst of both worlds" causing significant economic harm without getting the virus under control making the situation a "gateway" for "months and months of agony."

Johnson defended his government's regional lockdown approach during PMQs Credit: PA

Mr Johnson was unable to say what measures the government would use to decide if an area was ready to be taken out of Tier 3, but said the restrictions would only be in place for 28 days before they would be reviewed.

He attacked Labour's plan for a circuit break lockdown for all of England, calling it the "height of absurdity" to criticise the government's economic plans when Sir Kier wanted to "turn the lights off" across the country.

He also claimed no other country in Europe had done as much as the UK had to support businesses during the pandemic.

Sir Kier responded by pointing out only Cornwall and possibly the Isle of Wight had infection rates lower than Greater Manchester did when it first saw heightened restrictions in July.

South Yorkshire will be the next area under Tier 3 measures after an agreement was reached with the government on Wednesday.

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

They will move to the new restrictions on Saturday, a day after Greater Manchester.

Leader of Sheffield City Council Julie Dore said it asked the government for significant financial help but were only given a "standard package" that would not be enough to "provide the support for people that is needed".

She added: "It is not too late to do the right thing to support people in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and all the people currently going into Tier 3 across the country, and I would plead with government to increase the levels of support they are providing for Tier 3."

Other areas that have been moved to Tier 3 have complained they were offered a take or leave it deal that would not be enough to help all the people that needed it.

Talks are ongoing with Greater Manchester over what support they will receive despite Mr Burnham rejecting the £60 million package.