Manchester moves to Tier 3 but Chancellor warns against national lockdown

20 October 2020, 22:44 | Updated: 21 October 2020, 05:52

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham claims the Government is not offering enough support to workers
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham claims the Government is not offering enough support to workers. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Greater Manchester has been forced to accept Tier 3 restrictions while the Chancellor has warned against an "enormously damaging" national lockdown.

Negotiations over the future of the city region fell apart this morning as the last-minute deadline expired, with the Government claiming they have no option but to place it in Tier 3 restrictions from midnight on Friday.

It is understood the Government walked away from talks when Mayor Andy Burnham refused to back down on a £65 million support package businesses and workers - with the Government offering a maximum of £60 million.

Council leaders say they remain united in demanding the amount as a minimum to secure the futures of thousands of workers and businesses affected by the looming restrictions.

After a defiant statement from Mayor Burnham and his team, who accused ministers of trying to handle the pandemic "on the cheap", he found out from looking at a reporter's mobile that the Government would be imposing restrictions and offering only £22 million.

It was later confirmed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, however, that an offer of £60 million is still "on the table" - but it remains unclear whether Greater Manchester leaders will return to talks.

Read more: Greater Manchester will move to Tier 3 restrictions, PM confirms

Read more: Andy Burnham warns of ‘punishing’ winter and says No 10 walked away from talks

There was widespread criticism over the level of support being offered, with several Labour MPs in the city region venting their anger on social media and Manchester's Young Conservatives group calling on Mr Johnson to resign.

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell tweeted: "It’s an utter disgrace that businesses and workers in GM won’t get an extra penny from government to support them in Tier 3.

"Andy is right: it’s utter spite. The idea of all in this together has been totally shattered this week."

On Tuesday night, however, six of the nine Conservative MPs in the area wrote a letter to Mayor Burnham accusing him of "completely failing" in his duty to constituents.

It is understood they will now seek to negotiate settlements for their own towns.

Labour is now planning to force a vote in the Commons tomorrow on a "fair one nation deal" for all regions affected by Tier 3 restrictions.

The party said it will urge MPs to back its motion demanding the Government pay at least 80% of the salaries of people forced out of work.

Read more: Matt Hancock confirms £60m support offer for Greater Manchester still stands

Read more: Sadiq Khan calls for 10pm curfew to be scrapped in London ‘immediately’

In a statement on Tuesday, Sir Keir said: "The Conservatives have been treating local communities, particularly in the Midlands, North West and North East, and their leaders with contempt.

"This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead.

"Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government's wholly inadequate proposals.

"The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic."

It follows another day of heated debate over whether England should abandon its three-tier system in favour of a national lockdown.

In the House of Commons, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Labour MPs and Shadow Chancellor Annelise Dodds that a return to nationwide restrictions would be "enormously damaging" for the economy.

"It's very clear that the party opposite thinks we should have a rolling programme of national lockdowns," he said.

"What I can tell [Ms Dodds] is that would be enormously damaging for people's jobs and livelihoods, causing unnecessary pain and suffering in parts of the country where the virus prevalence is low.

"A localised approach is the best approach."

Read more: Second national lockdown would be 'enormously damaging', chancellor warns

Labour has been calling for a two-week 'circuit break' national lockdown to get the virus under control since a report from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) recommended doing so in September.

In an extraordinary intervention on Tuesday evening, however, Deputy Chief Medical Officer backed the Chancellor and said that a national lockdown was not yet needed and that doing so would not be "consistent with" the current presence of Covid-19.

He highlighted that it would have little effect in areas such as Cornwall, where the number of new cases is significantly lower than in parts of the North of England, the Midlands and London.

Labour claims that not intervening nationally could cause greater economic damage than continuing with regional restrictions, with South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck warning that repeated changes to local lockdown rules in the North East was "killing" the local economy.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister, however, remain determined to continue with the three-tier system and highlighted that the Government's Job Support Scheme was "warmly welcomed" by business groups and trade unions.