Deadline passes on Government’s Greater Manchester coronavirus ultimatum

Boris Johnson’s deadline for agreeing a deal with Greater Manchester leaders on tougher coronavirus controls has passed without an official announcement.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 12:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 12:46 pm

The Government threatened to impose stringent restrictions on the region if an agreement was not brokered by midday on Tuesday.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham earlier suggested he would make a last-ditch bid with other civic leaders for more financial support ahead of the deadline.

Ministers are said to 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.

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A mural depicting a health worker by artist Peter Barber in Manchester

Mr Burnham and other local politicians have been resisting pressure for the region to be moved into Tier 3, amid concerns about the impact on the region’s economy.

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

The imposition of Tier 3 controls would mean a ban on households mixing, including in private gardens or outdoor hospitality settings, while pubs and bars will be forced to close unless they serve meals.

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Mr Burnham said 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.

“The letter is odd in that it is both an ultimatum but it references potential additional support that could be given to us.

“The thing is, we’ve never been given a figure for that additional support,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“What I’ll be proposing to the Greater Manchester leaders when we meet this morning, quite early, is that we write to the Government setting out what we think a fair figure is for that support, given we’ve been under restrictions for three months and that has taken a real toll on people and businesses here.

“The second thing we would need is full flexibility to support the people that we think are going to need to be supported in a Tier 3 lockdown.”

However, he said he would not break the law if the Government imposed the measures on the 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester without the consent of civic leaders.

It comes after Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick issued a statement on Monday night warning that the Government had no choice but to act because of the deteriorating situation in the region.

He said there were now “more Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester hospitals than in the whole of the South West and South East combined”.

“Despite recognising the gravity of the situation, local leaders have been so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control.

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

Mr Jenrick’s statement follows a warning last week by Mr Johnson that the Government would act to impose stricter measures in Greater Manchester if they could not get agreement locally.

Meanwhile, official figures showed the number of weekly registered coronavirus deaths has risen beyond 400 and increased by a third in the space of seven days.

Some 438 deaths mentioning “novel coronavirus” were registered in England and Wales in the week ending October 9, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.