Confusion over Greater Manchester tier talks with Number 10

Confusion has been cast over lockdown talks between Downing Street and Greater Manchester after mayor Andy Burnham denied No 10's suggestion talks had been arranged to attempt to end the row.

Downing Street said a call between the two sides had been scheduled for Sunday morning, as both sides come under pressure to come to an agreement over Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.

But the office for Mr Burnham, who is resisting the highest level of controls without more financial support for workers and businesses, flatly denied a call had been scheduled.

Boris Johnson was also under renewed pressure on Saturday to impose a short national lockdown known as a circuit-breaker to slow Covid-19's resurgence.

The calls came as new controls including in Lancashire and London mean 28 million people, more than half of England, are living under heightened restrictions.

Labour joined the Prime Minister, who has warned he could impose restrictions without local agreement, in warning that the situation in Greater Manchester is "grave".

Elected Mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham Credit:

Mr Burnham said no meetings had taken place since Thursday morning and urged in a joint statement with council leaders that "we are ready to meet at any time".

Downing Street on Saturday indicated a call had been scheduled for the following morning after a message was left with Mr Burnham.

But a spokesman for the mayor said: "Nothing has yet been arranged."

No 10 reached out this morning to try and arrange a meeting with the Mayor of Manchester. We will continue to try and reach an agreement on these difficult, yet necessary, measures to protect the NHS and the people of Manchester.

Downing Street source

Around 1.5 million more people woke up to Tier 3 restrictions when Lancashire joined the Liverpool region living under the severest controls, with pubs and bars closed unless they can serve meals and indoor mixing banned.

The Prime Minister has been resisting calls to implement the measure over the October half term as he favours local measures, but said on Friday that he "can't rule anything out".

He also tried to increase pressure on Mr Burnham during a Downing Street press conference, and threatened to impose the measures if local leaders did not accept them.

"I cannot stress enough: time is of the essence.

"Each day that passes before action is taken means more people will go to hospital, more people will end up in intensive care and tragically more people will die," Mr Johnson said.

But the mayor and council leaders across Greater Manchester, including a Conservative, responded by insisting they have done "everything within our power to protect the health of our residents", and said people and firms need greater financial support before they accept the lockdown.