By Arj Singh
Local leaders have argued that existing tier 2 restrictions have not brought cases down for months, and that financial support needs to be scaled up to help people and businesses hit by further lockdown measures.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick in a letter offered £22m to help the city enter tier 3, worth around £8 per person, with “additional support commensurate” with that offered in Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region.
But Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said the government’s offer was an “insult”.
Where to start with government response to GM this am:
?not good faith discussion but only 2 ministerial meets
?been in Tier 2 since July when our rates lower than lowest regions today
?rates are falling in Mcr and stabilising across region
?£7.85/person offer is insult
— Lucy Powell MP (@LucyMPowell) October 20, 2020
Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Burnham said he would “try to be positive and respond, and see if we can find a way forward” despite the “slightly provocative move” by the government.
“The letter is odd in that it is both an ultimatum but it references potential additional support that could be given to us,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The thing is, we’ve never been given a figure for that additional support.
“What I’ll be proposing to the Greater Manchester leaders when we meet this morning, quite early, is that we write to the government setting out what we think a fair figure is for that support, given we’ve been under restrictions for three months and that has taken a real toll on people and businesses here.
“The second thing we would need is full flexibility to support the people that we think are going to need to be supported in a tier 3 lockdown.”
But he said he would not break the law if the government imposed the measures on Greater Manchester without the consent of civic leaders.
In his letter, Jenrick had warned there were now “more Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester hospitals than in the whole of the south-west and south-east combined”.
“Despite recognising the gravity of the situation, local leaders have been so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control,” he wrote.
“I have written to local leaders this evening to make clear that if we cannot reach agreement by midday [on Tuesday] then I must advise the prime minister that, despite our best endeavours, we’ve been unable to reach agreement.”