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Downing Street to offer more money to break Greater Manchester Tier 3 impasse



Downing Street has offered a multimillion pound package to local leaders in Greater Manchester in an attempt to strike an agreement to place the region into the highest level of local Covid restrictions. 

No10 heaped pressure on the region’s Labour mayor Andy Burnham to accept a deal or face being forced into the Tier 3 alert level as it sought to break the ongoing impasse over the issue.    

Mr Burnham held talks with Sir Edward Lister, Boris Johnson’s chief strategic adviser, on Sunday, which were described by his office as “constructive” with further talks expected on Monday. 

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Hopes that an agreement might be imminent increased last night after it emerged Rishi Sunak signalled he is willing to release tens of millions of pounds to persuade local leaders to sign up to the proposals. 

A man walks past a coronavirus awareness poster in Manchester as the region awaits news of a tier 3 settlement. (Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters)

Hopes of a deal

According to the FT, the Chancellor is willing to offer Greater Manchester a discretionary package of cash to “get a deal over the line”, but has refused to agree to Mr Burnham’s demands of maintaining furloughed workers’ wages at 80 per cent rather than 66 per cent. 

The move comes after Liverpool City Region confirmed it had secured an extra £30m in Covid-19 business support from the Government less than a week after it entered Tier 3 – making a total of £44m.  

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Lancashire agreed to enter Tier 3 on Friday in a deal worth £42m. Greater Manchester, which has a population the size of Merseyside and Lancashire combined, has already been under heightened Tier 2 type restrictions for 10 weeks. 

Burnham accused of ‘posturing’

A No10 source said the Government wanted to “work out something together with local leaders as we have done with Liverpool and Lancashire”. 

But the source warned Mr Burnham must put an end to the “posturing” and insisted that the Government would “move if we need to” and force Greater Manchester into the “highest risk” category if a deal cannot be found.

Andy Burnham, the region’s mayor, is at the centre of a stand-off with Downing Street (Photo: Martin Rickett/Getty)

No10 applied further pressure on the Labour mayor with what appeared to be a coordinated letter from Greater Manchester Tory MPs, who insisted they were “deeply concerned” by Mr Burnham’s latest stance of calling for a national “circuit breaker” lockdown. 

The letter, signed by five Conservative MPs, insisted the Labour politician does “not have our support for an extreme and poorly thought out programme of total lockdowns”.  

Fears for jobs

Earlier in the day, Mr Burnham urged Parliament to intervene on the issue and said he was demanding more money as people’s businesses and livelihoods were at risk, insisting “this is not just Greater Manchester’s fight”. 

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He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “People are worrying about their jobs, their kids, their homes, their businesses. 

“So this isn’t about politics or about money, this is about people’s health and what’s right for them. A punishing lockdown without support, trapping places in Tier 3 all winter, I think will cause real harm to health in the broadest possible sense.” 

A spokesperson for Mr Burnham said: “Andy and Sir Edward had a constructive call but we will not be going into details.”