Coronavirus: Boris Johnson bypasses Andy Burnham and tries to ‘pick off’ Great Manchester boroughs one by one

Jon Stone
·3-min read
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (Getty Images)
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham (Getty Images)

The government will bypass Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and pay coronavirus cash directly to councils in region, Boris Johnson has said

The prime minister was accused of trying to "pick off" councils one by one by splitting off the 10 boroughs and urging them to come forward individually to collect cash.

Ministers had refused Mr Burnham's demands for extra money to support businesses in the area facing closure under the Tier 3 lockdown. Talks between the government and the combined authority collapsed in acrimony on Tuesday after a Westminster-imposed deadline passed.

"Yesterday the Mayor of Greater Manchester was offered a further £60 million which he turned down," the prime minister told MPs during Commons questions.

"So I can tell the House today that that cash will be distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester."

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to have written to the area's 10 borough councils urging them to come forward and collect the cash “as swiftly as possible, so we can get the money out”.

“With your help, we will ensure it reaches them as swiftly as is practicable," he told them.

He will say the money will be distributed to all areas, with £60m on offer to support businesses – or around £20 per head of population in each of the 10 boroughs.

The leaders of the local councils will be asked to agree details of the agreement with the government individually, without the agreement of the Greater Manchester combined authority which Mr Burnham leads.

Speaking at a debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon Angela Rayner accused the prime minister of "trying to play us off against each other across Greater Manchester".

Boris Johnson said he would pay cash directly to councilsReuters TV
Boris Johnson said he would pay cash directly to councilsReuters TV

"The people of Greater Manchester, regardless of their political persuasions, are absolutely dismayed in the way in which our democratically elected mayor has been treated," the Ashton-under-Lyne MP said.

"It's not just the treatment of our democratically elected mayor, it's the people of greater Manchester: it's not just some spiteful little game that's going on, it's people's lives, people's loved-ones, people's jobs, who've spent years building up our economy in Greater Manchester.

"This government choosing the path that they've chosen has done one thing for Greater Manchester: it's brought us together.

Ms Rayner said the region's boroughs "will not be picked off one by one" and "offered the crumbs when we helped baked the loaf".

She said it was important to win the battle for adequate support for people facing lockdown as "next week and in the weeks ahead it'll be communities in other parts of the country that find themselves in Tier 3".

But justifying the decision to bypass Mr Burnahm, Steve Barclay, chief secretary to the Treasury said: "There is a difference, I'm sorry to say, between the approach taken by the mayor in Manchester and the constructive approach taken by other local leaders, and I don't accept the premise from the opposition front bench that the mayor of Manchester alone speaks for Great Britain, and other local leaders in Liverpool, Lancashire, South Yorkshire or elsewhere do not."

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