Andy Burnham criticises midday ultimatum for Tier 3 in Greater Manchester

20 October 2020, 08:31 | Updated: 20 October 2020, 08:48

Andy Burnham has so far resisted calls to introduce Government Covid restrictions
Andy Burnham has so far resisted calls to introduce Government Covid restrictions. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Andy Burnham has called the Government "provocative" for threatening local Manchester leaders to accept Tier 3 restrictions by midday today or face unilateral Government action.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick told Greater Manchester leaders they have until midday on Tuesday to restrictions.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has so far resisted calls to introduce Government Covid restrictions.

He has been holding out for several days and has been negotiating with the Government to secure more help for workers and firms who will be affected by a move to Tier 3.

But he said today he would not "break the law" if the Government put the region into Tier 3 coronavirus measures.

Appearing on Sky News, he was asked what he would do if further restrictions were imposed.

Read more: Government and Greater Manchester yet to reach agreement on lockdown measures

Mr Burnham said: "Of course we wouldn't break the law. We've never said that we would.

"We would obviously have to accept that decision, in the end it's the Government's prerogative.

"But I would say to them at this point are they sure that that is a wise thing to do?"

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he wanted to ensure the lowest-paid people in the region were supported if Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions were brought in.

He added: "If we go into a lockdown where we don't support people who are in the lowest-paid professions we will have a mental health crisis on top of a pandemic.

Read more: Greene King boss: Tier 2 restrictions 'closure in all but name' for pubs

"Tier 3 lockdowns affect the lowest-paid people in society, people who work in pubs, people who drive taxis, people who work on the doors in pubs.

"These are the people that Westminster politicians traditionally ignore.

"We are not going to do that here. If you're going to impose a lockdown here, it's going to cause certain harm ... to all of the people that I've mentioned.

"That is why we have stood firm, because we don't believe we can consign our residents to hardship in that way."

Mr Burnham also described the late-night ultimatum briefed to the media as a provocative move.

The Mayor continued: "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.

"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."

Mr Burnham said he thought shielding of elderly and vulnerable people in Greater Manchester needed to be "looked at seriously" and suggested it was "part of the solution".

"I have to say I am worried genuinely about the Tier 3 policy as it is developing because we have had briefings from very senior figures - the deputy chief medical officer - who said to us that for Tier 3 to have a chance you have to close a lot of things.

"The trouble with the way that the Government are pursuing this at the moment is that they are not funding local areas to support people through the closure of lots of things within their community, and that is a major flaw at the heart of this Tier 3 strategy as it develops."