Johnson imposes Tier 3 restrictions on Greater Manchester

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor
·5 min read

Boris Johnson has imposed tough coronavirus restrictions on Greater Manchester after talks aimed at reaching an agreement ended in acrimony.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said talks collapsed after the Government refused to meet his demand for £65 million to support the livelihoods of people in the region as they face the closure of pubs, bars, bookmakers and other premises.

But Whitehall insiders accused the Labour mayor of “intransigence” and claimed his “pride” had scuppered a deal.

Amid the bitter recriminations between politicians in Westminster and Manchester, the lives of 2.8 million people will be placed under tougher curbs from Friday.

Addressing reporters in Manchester, Mr Burnham said leaders of the authorities in Greater Manchester had originally wanted £90 million – £15 million a month until the end of the financial year – to protect incomes for people forced out of work.

They reduced that sum eventually to £65 million, but ministers would only offer £60 million.

The Prime Minister only confirmed a £22 million sum as he announced the new restrictions at a Downing Street press conference, money intended to implement and enforce the new rules.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock later said the “door is open” to further discussions with local leaders regarding business support.

He told the Commons: “Of course, we do not want businesses in Greater Manchester to be disadvantaged so that offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”

Mr Burnham said £65 million was the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship” over a “punishing” winter.

“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.”

The mayor accused the Government of walking away from the talks, saying: “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.

“Even now, I am still willing to do a deal but it cannot be on the terms that the Government offered today.”

He repeated his call for Parliament to agree a framework for future areas which face going into Tier 3 restrictions to avoid the kind of wrangling that has been going on in Greater Manchester.

“I don’t believe that we can proceed as a country on this basis through the pandemic by grinding communities down, through punishing financial negotiations,” he said.

Mr Johnson confirmed Greater Manchester would move to the “very high” alert level.

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK
(PA Graphics)

Pubs and bars will be closed, unless they are serving substantial meals, for a 28-day period, along with betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas.

The Prime Minister said regulations will be laid in Parliament on Thursday and come into force just after midnight.

“I know that these restrictions are tough, both on businesses and individuals – believe me, no-one wants to be putting these things into effect,” he said.

The new measures could lead to the closure of more than 1,800 pubs and 140 wine bars, as well as 277 betting shops and 12 casinos, according to the real estate adviser Altus Group.

The Prime Minister was repeatedly pressed on what funding would be available to support businesses in Manchester and whether the £60 million offered to Mr Burnham remained on the table.

“We want to do more,” he said. “But for the sake of fairness, the deal has to be in line with the agreements we have reached with Lancashire and Merseyside, where we have made progress.”

Mr Johnson said his door remains open to Mr Burnham for further talks on the support package.

Downing Street sources stressed that the funding that had been offered was “still available”.

Mr Burnham had complained that ministers were “they playing poker with place and people’s lives through a pandemic”.

Greater Manchester MPs reacted with fury to the £22 million commitment.

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

Wigan MP and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This is bad faith, it’s immoral – just disgraceful.”

Covid-19 restrictions in England
(PA Graphics)

In other developments:

– Downing Street said talks are continuing with local leaders in the North West, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber about further coronavirus restrictions.

– The Government said that, as of Tuesday, there had been a further 21,330 lab-confirmed cases, while a further 241 people had died within 28 days of testing positive – the highest daily figure reported since June 5 and taking the UK total to 43,967.

– Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for the 10pm curfew in the capital to be scrapped now the city is under Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.

– Test subjects could be exposed to the new coronavirus in controlled settings from January in a bid to speed up vaccine development, officials confirmed.

– Number 10 confirmed that, under Tier 2 and 3 rules on household mixing, people can still meet up for work meetings indoors under certain circumstances.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party will force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a “fair one nation deal” for areas facing Tier 3 restrictions.

The party said it will urge its MPs to back its motion demanding “the Government guarantees people faced with hardship who are subject to the Job Retention Scheme extension will receive at least 80% of their previous incomes”.

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.”

Tory MP for Heywood and Middleton Chris Clarkson said Mr Burnham should now let local MPs and council leaders attempt to get a settlement.

Mr Clarkson tweeted: “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.”