TORY PM Johnson announced yesterday the government will impose the strictest measures – a Tier 3 lockdown – on Manchester, despite Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, backed by local leaders and Tory MPs, opposing the restrictions.
Amongst those MPs who backed Burnham was Chair of the Tories’ 1922 Committee Graham Brady.
A standoff between the Mayor and the government lasted for ten days since the measures were announced, and yesterday talks broke down after a midday deadline came and went.
Johnson announced that the offer of money had been withdrawn and the lockdown measures will be imposed at one minute past midnight on Friday.
The entire area will now get only £22 million in funding.
Johnson said at a press conference in London at 5pm yesterday: ‘Over the last ten days we tried to get an approach with local leaders in Greater Manchester, a joint approach.
‘Unfortunately agreement was not reached. And I do regret this and as I said last week we would have had a better chance of defeating the virus if we work together.
‘We made a generous and extensive offer, to support Manchester’s businesses. I want to stress this offer was proportionate to the support we have given Merseyside and Lancashire.
‘The mayor did not accept this, unfortunately.’
Announcing the imposition of the measures Johnson said: ‘Given the public health situation I must now proceed to moving Greater Manchester to the very high alert level because not to act would put Manchester’s NHS and the lives of many of Manchester’s residents at risk.’
He announced a ‘comprehensive package of support’ of which Greater Manchester will receive £22 million of this.’
When challenged by a reporter if the £60 million offered by the government during negotiations was now off the table, Johnson said: ‘What we couldn’t do, is do a deal with Greater Manchester that was out of kilter with the deals that we made with Liverpool and Lancashire.’
Burnham, flanked by local MPs and council leaders at a press conference in Manchester at 4pm yesterday, said: ‘This reflects the unity that we have had here in Greater Manchester amongst our ten council wards and amongst our members of Parliament.’
He said: ‘In negotiations with the government we were prepared to reduce our request to £75 million and we were prepared to go even lower, to £65 million as the bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship.
‘That is what we believed we needed to prevent poverty and to prevent hardship, to prevent homelessness, those were the figures that we had, not what we wanted, what we needed, to prevent all of those things happening.
‘But the government refused to accept this and at 2pm today they walked away from negotiations.
‘In summary, 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.’
The three-tier system of alerts came into force in England last week in an attempt to control rising coronavirus cases without a UK-wide lockdown.
Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that discussions are planned for South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, north-east England and Teesside also moving into the top tier.
On this, Burnham said: ‘We need national unity and that is why I now look to Parliament to intervene and make a judgement on a fair financial framework for Tier 3 lockdowns. Because, make no mistake, this was not just about Greater Manchester.
‘All parts of the country may find themselves in a Tier 3 lockdown at some point this winter.’
Labour leader Kier Starmer pledged the party leadership’s continued support for Burnham.
Starmer said: ‘The collapse of these talks is 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 and local leaders in the North West in the fight for people’s jobs, lives and livelihoods.’
National Secretary of the All Trades Union Alliance Dave Wiltshire told News Line: ‘The only way forward is to have a national lockdown with workers receiving their full wages, until the virus is beaten – as they have done in China.
‘The trade unions must act in what is a desperate situation to bring down the Johnson government and bring in a workers’ government that will put the health care of the people ahead of billionaires making super profits, by nationalising the banks and the major industries and bringing in a socialist planned economy.’