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Fri, 27 November 2020

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Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A "Fair Deal" For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions

Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A 'Fair Deal' For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions

Talks between the government and mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham collapsed without a deal in place (PA)

5 min read

Labour are set to force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a "fair deal" for regions which are facing new lockdown restrictions.

The vote will ask MPs to agree that ministers should publish a "clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses" in those facing the highest level of restrictions.

It comes after Number 10 scrambled to reassure politicians in Greater Manchester that a £60m financial settlement is still on the table after Boris Johnson said the region was going into a Tier 3 lockdown with no deal in place.

The government has so far only agreed to hand over an extra £22million for helping with track and trace and enhanced enforcement of the restrictive rules, which will shut pubs, gyms, casinos and soft play centres.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be set to approach each local council in Greater Manchester tomorrow to hammer out a package individually after talks with the metro mayor Andy Burnham collapsed today.

MPs had reacted with fury to the news their constituencies will face the toughest coronavirus restrictions for at least a month without extra economic support.

The news was set out on a call with the health secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Edward Lister, shortly after Mr Burnham gave a press conference saying Downing Street was unwilling to offer enough support for businesses and employees.

One of those MPs on the line, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, told PoliticsHome: “Does the government really hate Greater Manchester that much, that they acknowledge that we have a need for support, then dangle what we would say is insufficient, though not an insubstantial amount of money in front of us, and then withdraw it completely?”

The Denton MP said Mr Hancock was repeatedly asked about any additional money to help businesses but obfuscated, however it was Sir Edward who came on the call at the end and delivered the "cup of cold sick" news that Greater Manchester was not getting anything more.

“The government agreed there was a case for support but don’t agree with what that amount should be. This is an atrocious way to treat businesses and people’s livelihoods,” said Gwynne.

Other Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, also expressed their anger on social media.

But updating MPs on the plans, Mr Hancock said the £60m support package for the region remained "on the table".

"Over the last 10 days we've sought to reach agreement with local leaders and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement," he said.

"As well as the support we've outlined we've made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester's businesses.

"This offer was proportionate to the offer we've given Lancashire and the Liverpool city region but unfortunately the Mayor rejected it.

"That offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said people in Greater Manchester "will be watching the news in disbelief".

"They will be asking why was it right to cover 80 per cent of wages in March and just two-thirds of their wages in October," he said.

"What happened to that Chancellor who plastered across social media soft focus selfies of himself boasting he would do whatever it takes?

"That Chancellor is forcing people on the national minimum wage to live on just £5.76 an hour. From 'whatever it takes' to taking from the lowest paid.

"Where is the Chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the North."

And he insisted the civic leaders had been "willing to compromise" over the level of financial support.

"Rather than finding the £5 million extra, the Prime Minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then took £38 million off the table," he said.

"What a petty, vindictive, cowardly response. The Prime Minister may think he's punishing the politicians, in fact he's punishing the people."

He added: "This isn't a game, it's about people's lives. People need proper financial support. This is a national crisis and we won't defeat this virus on the cheap."

Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had treated local communities with "contempt".

"This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead," he said.

"Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government's wholly inadequate proposals.

"The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic...

"I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the Government's hand."

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Connecting Communities

Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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