Greater Manchester Tier 3 lockdown talks collapsed because government 'wouldn't shift over £5m'

George Martin
·5-min read
A person wearing a face mask walks past a poster of the Manchester Bee in Albert Square, Manchester as the Government is preparing to impose stringent new coronavirus controls on 2.8 million people after talks with the local leaders for Greater Manchester failed to reach agreement. Leaders have been given until midday on Tuesday to reach a deal, or face unilateral Government action, after 10 days of negotiations failed to reach an agreement.
A woman walks past a poster of the Manchester Bee in Albert Square, Manchester. (PA)

Talks have collapsed between local leaders in Greater Manchester and the government after the deadline to reach an agreement over moving the city into a Tier 3 lockdown passed on Tuesday.

Local politicians in the region had been meeting with ministers for 10 days to try and reach an agreement over financial compensation for those affected by the proposed social distancing measures.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was reportedly seeking around £65m to break the deadlock, but sources claimed the talks eventually broke down as the government was only willing to offer a £60m deal.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed the discussions concluded "without an agreement" after the noon deadline passed and accused Burnham of being "unwilling to take the action that is required".

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham speaking to the media outside the Central Library in Manchester, he has threatened legal action if Tier 3 restrictions are imposed without agreement.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham held talks with communities secretary Robert Jenrick over a support package for the region to go into Tier 3 lockdown. (PA)

"I'm disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the government,” he said in a statement.

"I have therefore advised the prime minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement."

What was at stake?

Under the Tier 3 lockdown, pubs and bars in Greater Manchester would be forced to shut, 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 measures could lead to the closure of more than 1,800 pubs and 140 wine bars in the city, as well as 277 betting shops and 12 casinos, according to the real estate adviser Altus Group.

The imposition of Tier 3 controls would also mean a ban on households mixing – including in private gardens or outdoor hospitality settings.

Watch: Burnham issued with ultimatum over deal

However, a leaked NHS document suggested on Monday that the city would run out of hospital beds if it failed to get a grip on cases.

Hospitals in Salford, Stockport and Bolton are already full according to the analysis.

But Burnham claimed cases have begun to be brought under control in recent days, negating the need for draconian measures.

Why did the talks break down?

The government was forced to issue Burnham with an ultimatum on Monday night threatening even stricter rules unless a deal was reached by midday on Tuesday.

Burnham accused ministers of acting provocatively by warning that they had no choice but to act because of the deteriorating situation in the region.

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said that £22m has been offered to local leaders on Tuesday on top of extra support for businesses.

Burnham and others were reportedly seeking £75m for the region before eventually lowering their demands to £65m.

A person wearing a mask walks past a sign at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, as the Government is preparing to impose stringent new coronavirus controls on 2.8 million people after talks with the local leaders for Greater Manchester failed to reach agreement. Leaders have been given until midday on Tuesday to reach a deal, or face unilateral Government action, after 10 days of negotiations failed to reach an agreement.
A person wearing a mask walks past a sign at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. (PA)

Read more: Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham vows to consider legal action over Tier 3 lockdown

But reports suggest the talks stalled as the government refused to budge on a deal worth £60m, a difference of just £5m.

Manchester Central Labour MP Lucy Powell tweeted on Tuesday: “Just for some context, the money the Treasury recently clawed back from GM in business cash grants from March/April lockdown stands at £88 million.

“So Government TOOK BACK £88m in Covid business support but now won’t give less than this to support GM businesses now.”

“The government clearly doesn’t really care about supporting businesses and protecting jobs AND protecting health because they are prepared to cause huge breakdown over £5m (a tiny fraction of what they’ve spent elsewhere). This is politics at its worst, not public health.”

Meanwhile, Tory MP for Hazel Grove, William Wragg, wrote on Twitter: The sense of failure is overwhelming. I shall avoid political comment until I have heard @MattHancock’s statement in @HouseofCommons this evening. Leadership is required from everybody. Trust is placed in us all and that is the privilege of public office.”

Labour deputy leader and Ashton-under-Lyne MP Angela Rayner tweeted: “The government have failed us in Gtr Mcr and we won’t forget it. Andy Burnham is right to stand up to protect our communities.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the collapse of talks between Greater Manchester and Westminster was “a sign of government failure”.

“The Conservatives have been treating local communities, particularly in the Midlands, North West and North East, and their leaders with contempt.

“Labour recognise the need for stricter public health restrictions. However, that must be accompanied by extra financial support.

“Labour will continue to support Andy Burnham in the fight for people’s jobs, lives and livelihoods.”

What happens next?

Downing Street was unable to immediately confirm when the measures would come into effect.

It is also not yet clear how much financial support the region will receive if the tier three measures are imposed without the consent of local leaders.

Burnham said on Monday he would not break the law if the government imposed the measures on the 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester without his agreement.

So far only Liverpool City Region and Lancashire have come under the tightest restrictions in England, in each case with the agreement of local leaders.

Coronavirus: what happened today

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