Watch: 'Government is failing to help us' says Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy
A crunch meeting between the government and Greater Manchester leaders over Tier 3 restrictions started with a bitter “rant” from the health secretary, it has been claimed.
Talks collapsed between the two sides after the government refused to meet mayor Andy Burnham’s demand for £65m to support the livelihoods of people in the region as they face the closure of pubs, bars, bookmakers and other premises.
But health secretary Matt Hancock spent the first five minutes of the conference call complaining about Burnham, according to shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.
She told Sky News: “From day one there has been an attack on the Labour party and particularly Andy Burnham, who ministers seem weirdly obsessed by.
“On the call last night, Matt Hancock spent the first five minutes of a 25 minute call having a go at Andy Burnham, which didn’t go down well at all with his Conservative colleagues.”
Nandy said Hancock had a “rant for the first few minutes about” Burnham, adding: “There are a number of us who said to him, the truth is that Andy Burnham is very popular in the north of England and you are not.”
Following the breakdown of talks, Boris Johnson said he was going ahead and imposing tough coronavirus restrictions on Greater Manchester.
Nandy said Greater Manchester MPs were told on Tuesday there would be no more money for the region after Burnham rejected the offer of £60m.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The upshot was that we were told that there was not going to be a single penny available to Greater Manchester and that £22m for test, trace and isolate was the only deal available.
“That story seems to have changed overnight.”
Speaking this morning, communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was “a great shame” that the government was unable to reach an agreement with leaders after having tried “extremely hard”.
He told Sky News the clear public advice he received was that Greater Manchester was facing “a serious and deteriorating situation”, and that the government needed to act.
Appearing to place the blame at Burnham’s feet, Jenrick said: “We probably in honesty should have acted a few days ago but we hadn’t been able to reach an agreement with the mayor of Greater Manchester.”
Jenrick said the £60m of government support rejected by Burnham was still available to the region.
“The money is still there. It’s got Greater Manchester’s name on it,” he told the Today programme.
“We have had very productive conversations with the local council leaders in recent days. The council leaders can come to me, my door is open.”
Conservative MP Chris Clarkson said Burnham should now let local MPs and council leaders attempt to get a settlement.
He said the government offered to give Manchester “92% of what you asked for, with a settlement of an additional £60m funding, you decided the best option was to walk away having secured absolutely nothing”.
Burnham tweeted in response: “You haven’t got this quite right Chris.
“We asked for £90m – which is the cost of an 80% furlough & self-employed scheme.
“We were offered £60m – 66% of our ask, the same that pub staff in Heywood & Middleton are deemed to be worth.
“You can vote to change that today. Will you?”
Pubs and bars in Greater Manchester 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.
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