Greater Manchester MP brands Government "petulant and irresponsible" after talks break down

20 October 2020, 15:58 | Updated: 20 October 2020, 16:02

By Fiona Jones

Greater Manchester MP Debbie Abrahams brands the Government "petulant and irresponsible" after talks over the region entering Tier Three restrictions broke down earlier this afternoon.

Talks between Greater Manchester and Westminster on the region entering the toughest level of restrictions have concluded without an agreement, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has so far resisted calls to introduce Government Covid restrictions, as he has been aiming to secure more help for workers and firms who will be affected by a move to Tier 3.

Ms Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth, found the lack of agreement "incredibly disappointing" as her constituency has been under local restrictions since the end of July.

"This is a real slap in the face from the Government, it is completely unrealistic and unfair to suggest that somebody can exist on two-thirds of their wages," she said.

She reiterated that what Mr Burnham and the local council leaders were attempting to do was ensure people on the lowest income would not have to choose between putting their heating on and eating a full meal.

Ms Abrahams said national Government should function as a system of support for local areas as opposed to imposing lockdowns, citing this as the opinion of World Health Organisation envoy David Navarro.

She questioned whether the Government have an "ulterior motive" for enforcing the strictest lockdown as a large majority of people are "pulling together" and obeying lockdown.

Ms Abrahams said that while she was not in the meeting herself, people at that meeting were "saying something different" to the Government's claims that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham was offered £60 million and just "walked away."

She said she did not believe the talks broke down due to the regional leaders walking away, branding the Government "top-down, authoritarian, petulant and irresponsible" for its behaviour throughout this stand-off.

Shelagh pointed out that some constituents may consider local northern leaders as "petulant and irresponsible" for the delay in entering the toughest Covid restrictions.

Debbie Abrahams responded: "We were fighting to make sure we got the best possible deal for [constituents] the scheme of things this level of money for the Government is not big. For them just to walk away like this...very very disappointing."

Tweeting earlier, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: I’m disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the Mayor of Greater Manchester 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.

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