Burnham: Greater Manchester faces ‘punishing’ winter as coronavirus curbs loom
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Boris Johnson will impose tough coronavirus restrictions on Greater Manchester after talks aimed at reaching an agreement broke down.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said talks collapsed after the Government refused to meet his demand for £65 million to support the livelihoods of people in the region as they face the closure of pubs, bars, bookmakers and other premises.
But Whitehall insiders accused the Labour mayor of “intransigence” and claimed his “pride” had scuppered a deal.
Amid the bitter recriminations between politicians in Westminster and Manchester, the lives of 2.8 million people will be placed under tougher curbs, possibly as soon as Saturday.
Addressing reporters in Manchester, Mr Burnham said leaders of the authorities in Greater Manchester had originally wanted £90 million – £15 million a month until the end of the financial year – to protect incomes for people forced out of work.
They reduced that sum eventually to £65 million, but ministers would only offer £60 million.
Mr Burnham said £65 million was the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship” over a “punishing” winter.
“That is what we believe we needed to prevent poverty, to prevent hardship, to prevent homelessness. Those were the figures that we had – not what we wanted – but what we needed to prevent all of those things from happening.
“But the Government refused to accept this and at 2pm today they walked away from negotiations.
“In summary, at no point today were we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter to come.
“Even now, I am still willing to do a deal but it cannot be on the terms that the Government offered today.”
He repeated his call for Parliament to agree a framework for future areas which face going into Tier 3 restrictions to avoid the kind of wrangling that has been going on in Greater Manchester.
The Prime Minister personally intervened in the dispute, speaking to Mr Burnham on Tuesday, but the last-ditch effort failed to produce a breakthrough.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick accused the mayor of being “unwilling to take the action that is required”.
Pubs and bars will be closed, unless they are serving substantial meals, for a 28-day period, along with betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas.
The measures are expected to come into effect at 00.01 on Saturday.
Mr Jenrick said in a statement: “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.
“I have therefore advised the Prime Minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement.”
It is not yet clear how much financial support the region will receive following the collapse of the negotiations.
The new measures could lead to the closure of more than 1,800 pubs and 140 wine bars, as well as 277 betting shops and 12 casinos, according to the real estate adviser Altus Group.
In other developments:
– Downing Street said talks are continuing with local leaders in the North West, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber about further coronavirus restrictions.
– Official figures showed the number of weekly registered coronavirus deaths has risen beyond 400 and increased by a third in the space of seven days.
– The Government said that, as of Tuesday, there had been a further 21,330 lab-confirmed cases, while a further 241 people had died within 28 days of testing positive – the highest daily figure reported since June 5 and taking the UK total to 43,967.
– Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for the 10pm curfew in the capital to be scrapped now the city is under Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions.
– Test subjects could be exposed to the new coronavirus in controlled settings from January in a bid to speed up vaccine development, officials confirmed.
– Number 10 confirmed that, under Tier 2 and 3 rules on household mixing, people can still meet up for work meetings indoors under certain circumstances.
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