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Tier 3 funding for Greater Manchester remains uncertain

By PA News

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The Manchester skyline viewed from Oldham (Martin Rickett/PA)

Funding to help businesses facing Tier 3 restrictions in Greater Manchester remains uncertain, despite multi-million pound support packages having been agreed for Merseyside and Lancashire.

Greater Manchester leaders had asked for £90 million to support the region through to the end of the financial year but so far the Government has only agreed to £22 million to help authorities implement and enforce restrictions.

Both the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire secured £30 million of business support on top of the £14 million and £12 million, respectively, agreed for enforcement.

At a Downing Street briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not confirm whether Greater Manchester would be getting any extra funding.

He said: “Obviously we want to do more, but for the sake of fairness the deal has to be in line with the agreements we reached with Lancashire and Merseyside, where we have made progress.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock later said the “door is open” to further discussions with local leaders.

He told the Commons: “Over the last 10 days we’ve sought to reach an agreement with local leaders, and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement in Greater Manchester as we have previously in Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region.

“As well as the support that I’ve outlined, we’ve made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses. This offer was proportionate to the support that we’ve given the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire, but regrettably the mayor rejected it.

“Of course, we do not want businesses in Greater Manchester to be disadvantaged so that offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said leaders had been prepared to reduce their funding request to £75 million, or even to a “bare minimum” of £65 million, but said the Government had “walked away” from negotiations.

He told a press conference: “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.”

Greater Manchester, with a population of 2.8 million, had been expected to secure more cash than Lancashire, which has 1.5 million residents, and Liverpool City Region, which has a population of 1.6 million.

Led by Mr Burnham, leaders of the 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester became the focus of a power struggle between local and national government as they dug in against Tier 3 restrictions.

Unlikely support also came from local Conservative MPs and council leaders.

Northern leaders said the Government initially offered a “take it or leave it”’ deal, but as opposition grew there was speculation they would sweeten the deal with extra funding.

Details of the funding package for Liverpool City Region were announced at the weekend, after it became the first region to be subject to Tier 3 restrictions on Wednesday.

Metro mayor Steve Rotheram said the funding was a result of local leaders continuing to “press the Government and hold meaningful dialogue to secure vitally needed extra economic support”.

Lancashire’s deal, negotiated with 15 local council leaders, was “as good a deal as was going” or a “disgrace” depending on which town hall boss was asked.

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