Manchester Leaders Have Until 12pm To Accept The Government’s Coronavirus Deal Or Have Tier 3 Restrictions Imposed Unilaterally
Regional leaders have until midday on Tuesday to accept the government's deal (PA)
Leaders in Greater Manchester have been issued an ultimatum to accept the government’s offer of coronavirus support by noon on Tuesday or have tier 3 restrictions imposed on them.
Writing to the region’s mayors and council leaders, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that if the deadline was not met he would “advise the prime minister that despite our best endeavours we’ve been unable to reach agreement.”
The letter was sent just hours after the most recent meeting with Manchester representatives ended without progress, marking the end of the 10th day of talks with the government.
It is understood that the prime minister will impose the strictest tier of coronavirus restrictions on the region later this week if an agreement is not reached by 12 pm on Tuesday.
Mr Jenrick said local leaders had been "so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control".
He continued: “The deteriorating public health situation in Greater Manchester means that we need to take action urgently. We have held discussions in good faith with local leaders for 10 days in order to ensure that the measures put in place were tailored to the local community.
“We have offered an extensive package of support for local people and businesses, proportionate to the approach we have taken in the Liverpool city region and Lancashire and in addition to the wider national support.”
He added that Great Manchester has been offered £22 million to support the area’s 2.8 million people throughout the additional measures, and ministers were “open” to discussing further support.
But the city’s mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of “trying to respond to a pandemic on the cheap.”
Many local officials have expressed frustration that the sum offered to Manchester is much less than other regions, with Lancashire and Merseyside getting £42 million and £44 million respectively despite having smaller local populations.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Mr Burnham said: “We're in a crisis, and people need support in a crisis, but it does appear there's been an abrupt change since the summer where it's the opposite.”
Asked if he would oppose the restrictions were they imposed once the deadline passes, Mr Burnham said he would “accept that decision” as it was the “government’s prerogative”.
“But I would say to them at this point, are they sure that that is a wise thing to do because this isn't just Greater Manchester's problem,” he continued.
“Everywhere could end up in tier 3 over the winter and if they imposed tier 3 on places without providing that support… it will be the poorest people that will suffer the most as a result of that.
“And I would say to them that the government will be at risk of losing what public support remains for the approach that they're taking.”
But speaking on LBC, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "The important thing is to focus on saving lives”.
He said the government had been “negotiating in good faith for 10 days” but there were now fears that “there will be no ICU beds left in greater Manchester by the second week of November.”
He also confirmed to Sky News that “there's more to come if [Andy Burnham] wants to negotiate”.