Greater Manchester now facing Tier 3 Covid rules as talks end 'without agreement'

20 October 2020, 12:02 | Updated: 20 October 2020, 15:07

Greater Manchester is facing being put into Tier 3
Greater Manchester is facing being put into Tier 3. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The midday deadline for a decision on Tier 3 restrictions in Greater Manchester has passed with no agreement reached between the Government and regional leaders.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham admitted today he would accept Tier 3 rules, saying he would ask people to obey the law. The region is now facing the prospect of being moved into Tier 3 in a unilateral move by the Government.

Mr Burnham had been holding out for several days and was negotiating with the Government to secure more help for workers and firms who will be affected by the move, however no agreement could be reached on a package of funds.

The decision will now be passed to Boris Johnson, who is expected to intervene and impose the restrictions.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said the discussions with Greater Manchester had failed to produce a deal.

"I'm disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the government," he said.

"I have therefore advised the Prime Minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement."

However there was growing concern today over figures that appear to show Manchester and other regions on the brink of Tier 3 could actually be beating coronavirus.

Yesterday, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he would "refer" the case to the Prime Minister if no decision was made.

Boris Johnson has already said that he will intervene and impose restrictions on the region if he deems it necessary.

He told a Downing Street press conference last Friday: "Of course, if agreement cannot be reached I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester's hospitals and save the lives of Manchester's residents. But our efforts would be so much more effective if we work together."

Mr Burnham said on Tuesday morning that he would not "break the law" if the Government put the region into Tier 3 coronavirus measures, meaning the region will likely accept Tier 3 rules.

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

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?"

On Tuesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak failed to rule out harsher lockdown measures when challenged by Labour, but added that a "localised approach is the best approach".

During Treasury questions, his Labour opposite number Anneliese Dodds asked: "Last week when the Prime Minister was asked whether a circuit-breaker was likely he said 'I rule nothing out'. Does the Chancellor rule it out, yes or no?"

Mr Sunak replied: "Of course, I agree with the Prime Minister."

Ms Dodds warned that not undertaking a circuit-breaker now "could cost our economy £150 million" and asked the Chancellor if he had estimated the costs of not implementing harsher restrictions nationally.

Mr Sunak said: "The honourable lady talks about a rolling programme. It's very clear that the party opposite thinks we should have a rolling programme of national lockdowns.

"What I can tell her 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."

The Chancellor was then asked by Labour MP Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish), "why does the Government hate Greater Manchester?"

During Treasury questions, he told the Commons: "Last night the Communities Secretary (Robert Jenrick) offered just £22 million for a city region of 2.8 million. That's less than the £25 million he granted to his own town centre."

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak replied: "It is disappointing to hear the right honourable gentleman's tone, it's obviously a very difficult time for many people in this country as we evolve our response to this virus. But what we need is people acting in a constructive spirit."

Mel Stride, Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, called for an assessment of the economic and wider societal impacts of lockdown policies.

Responding, Mr Sunak said: "Whether it's the OBR or the IMF they project 3% scarring which will mean our economy potentially being £70-80 billion smaller in the future than it otherwise would have been."

It has been reported that the government was looking at offering the region £22m of confirmed funds for when they enter Tier 3.

This works out at roughly £8 per head.

Mr Burnham said on Tuesday, before the midday deadline, that he wants "an agreement which protects communities and businesses."

He also accused the Government of "trying to penny pinch" over introducing Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.

"All of the experts - chief medical officer, chief scientific adviser, the deputy chief medical officer - every single one of them has said to us they are not certain Tier 3 will work," he said.

"The only way it's got a chance of working is if you fully fund it so that lots of things can close so that they can have the maximum impact.

"The problem with the Government strategy is it isn't doing that, it's trying to penny pinch on Tier 3.

"That's the problem, I don't think its own strategy will work. It's not backing itself to make its strategy work."

In the rest of England, it is reported that a 'reprieve' for people in the North East will soon come to an end and local leaders in the region will be expected to negotiate a deal similar to that in Lancashire and Liverpool.

Tier 3 restrictions are also expected to be looming over large parts of Yorkshire.

There are concerns the restrictions could put many pubs and bars out of business and thousands will lose their jobs as a result.

There have also been warnings over a mental health crisis as a result of either Tier 3 restrictions and a national 'circuit breaker' lockdown, with many struggling to balance their lives.

Self-employed small business owner Nicky told LBC she was "petrified of losing everything" after receiving no financial support from the Government during the pandemic - she has now used all her savings and is living purely "on fear".