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Boris Johnson says Manchester could not be given deal ‘out of kilter’ with Liverpool for tier three lockdown

Boris Johnson has said he regrets the breakdown of talks with Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham, but said that he could not allow a deal “out of kilter” with those given to Liverpool and Lancashire for reasons of fairness.

Speaking at a press conference at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said “I do regret this”, adding that the Government had made a “generous and extensive offer” that was “proportionate” to the support given to other regions in the top tier of restrictions.

Mr Burnham has accused the Government of “grinding people down” in a row over how much support will be given to Greater Manchester as it is forced into a tier three lockdown. The metro mayor had attempted to secure £75m in funding to prop up wages for the low paid in the area during the new restrictions.

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Mr Johnson eventually said the area will now be offered £22m in support, with potential additional business support, adding later that his “door will remain open” to the mayor for further discussions.

Virus spreading

The row came as Westminster’s top scientists warned that the virus was spreading faster in the North West than anywhere else in England.

Detailing a rise in Covid-19 spread in the region, Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, said that there had been “very significant areas of heat across pretty much all of the ages”.

Boris Johnson is imposing new rules on Greater Manchester (Photo: Barcroft Media/Getty)

He said that the North West – particularly Cheshire, greater Manchester and Lancashire – had seen sharp rises in the numbers of people hospitalised with the virus.

There are more patients in hospital in the Greater Manchester area than in all of the South East and South West, he said.

New lockdown rules imposed

Under the local lockdown rules, in place from Friday, pubs and bars that don’t sell substantial meals will close for 28 days, along with other businesses such as betting shops and soft play areas.

The original noon deadline imposed by the government on Monday night passed without a deal. Mr Burnham labelled a statement by communities secretary Robert Jenrick as “slightly provocative” as the Government and regional leader tried to break the impasse.

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Breakdown of relations between ministers and Manchester over tier three rules is an ominous sign for regions

“The letter is odd in that it is both an ultimatum but it references potential additional support that could be given to us,” the metro mayor said. “The thing is, we’ve never been given a figure for that additional support.”

The government, in the face of increasing resistance in Manchester, attempted to ramp up the pressure, signalling that it was willing to take unilateral action if an agreement could not be reached.

“Unfortunately, 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,” Mr Jenrick said in a statement issued on Monday night.