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Greater Manchester to face stringent restrictions after talks to reach support deal with Westminster fail

Regional leaders are locked into a battle with the government in Westminster as new restrictions loom.

Manchester city centre.
Manchester city centre.
Image: Peter Byrne/PA Images

Updated Oct 20th 2020, 3:19 PM

GREATER MANCHESTER WILL be placed under stricter coronavirus controls after talks between the British government and civic leaders concluded without an agreement.

The region’s mayor Andy Burnham held last-ditch talks with the Prime Minister earlier today aimed at securing additional financial support for his consent on new restrictions.

But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the discussions have concluded “without an agreement” and accused the mayor of being “unwilling to take the action that is required”.

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.

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

Jenrick said in a statement: “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.

“I have therefore advised the Prime Minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement.”

Jenrick had warned civic chiefs last night that they had until midday today to reach a deal or face unilateral government action.

The leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese said earlier that he had hoped it would be possible to find an agreed way forward in the hours remaining.

However he acknowledged they would have no choice but to comply if ministers decided to impose the most stringent Tier 3 restrictions.

Speaking after the midday deadline passed, Johnson’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The talks have been ongoing this morning. I am not in a position to confirm how that has been resolved.”

Greater Manchester council leaders have reportedly asked for around £75 million in additional support if Tier 3 restrictions are imposed.

Ministers have offered £22 million to the region, equivalent to £8 per capita, with “additional support commensurate” with that offered in Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region.

But civic leaders are said to want the government to go further to support the city’s economy and 2.8 million people.

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Jenrick issued a statement last night warning that the British government had no choice but to act because of the deteriorating situation in the region.

He said he had “written to local leaders this evening to make clear that if we cannot reach agreement by midday (today) then I must advise the Prime Minister that, despite our best endeavours, we’ve been unable to reach agreement”.

Burnham said earlier today that he would “try to be positive and respond, and see if we can find a way forward” despite the “slightly provocative move” by the government.

There was anger among some of those involved in the negotiations at what they said was the use of “selective statistics” by the government to raise concern about the public health situation in the region.

In a joint statement with Leese, Burnham also complained that a previous offer of financial support had been withdrawn by ministers.

It followed a warning from a British government spokesman that the entire intensive care capacity in Greater Manchester could be filled with Covid-19 patients by November 12 unless action was taken.

However, leaders insisted the region’s intensive care occupancy rate was not abnormal for this time of year.

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