Government imposes Tier Three restrictions on Greater Manchester after talks collapse
The Government has imposed Tier Three lockdown measures on Greater Manchester, making it the first region to be placed into special measures against its will.
It follows a breakdown in talks with local leaders and Downing Street after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had set a 12 noon deadline today to thrash out an agreement.
It hinged on the levels of financial support the Government was willing to pay to those affected by restrictions.
In a 5pm live press conference, Mr Johnson announced that he has now acted, without the support of the region’s local politicians.
Tier Three measures will become effective from midnight on Thursday, October 22.
Mr Johnson said: “We made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester business. The Mayor didn’t accept this, unfortunately.”
He added: “Not to act would put Manchester’s NHS and the lives of many residents at risk.
“I hope the Mayor and council leaders will now work with us to implement these measures.”
Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham said the Government walked away from talks at 2pm this afternoon.
He has now has called on Parliament to intervene “to make a judgment on a fair, financial framework for Tier Three”.
Greater Manchester originally requested a minimum of £75m in support from the Government in return for accepting Tier Three status, the highest level of alert in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
This was in excess of the Government’s initial offer of £22m.
Local leaders dropped their request to £65m, but the Government was unwilling to pay more than £60m.
Boris Johnson said in his address: “We couldn’t do a deal with Greater Manchester that would have been out of kilter with the deals we have already done with Merseyside and Lancashire.
“We wanted a deal. We had to take action because of the urgency of the situation.
“We don’t want to do this in the way we had to.”
However, at no point in his address, did he reveal exactly how much would now be available for Greater Manchester.
Mr Burnham said: “People here have been living under restrictions for three months and they have taken a heavy toll. People most affected by Tier Three lockdowns are the people working in pubs, bookies, driving taxis.
“It cannot be right to close people’s places of work or shut someone’s business without giving them proper support.
“£65m was the bare minimum to prevent poverty, prevent, hardship, prevent homelessness. This is not what we wanted, it’s what we needed.”
He added: “This is brutal. This is not a way to run the country in a national crisis.”
Chris Fletcher, policy director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “This news comes as a bitter blow to the whole of Greater Manchester, its businesses and its residents.
“The huge difference from what has been given to what was needed seems a petty act of political sabotage on a regional economy by the Government.
“There has been a concerted effort by everyone right across GM to make clear to government why extra funding was a necessary factor to support a move to Tier Three.
“GM has been in Tier Two type measures since July and increasing numbers of businesses are struggling with dwindling cash reserves, the imminent ending of furlough and a huge drop off in sales.
“The fact that we have ended up in Tier Three with just £22m and the PM confirmed that a business support package of £55m was removed will not only create concern but genuine anger and distrust towards this government.
“It is vital that people follow the rules. The fact is that the virus must be brought under control, however, this will become increasingly challenging as the weeks progress if further funding isn’t brought forward and a more sensible and realistic approach taken by government.”
Damian Waters, CBI North West director, called for politicians to now work together, and for additional financial support for the region. He said: “National unity is essential to maintaining the confidence needed to help our economy, and compliance to reduce rising infection rates.
“So it’s deeply disappointing to witness divisions between local and central government, which have hindered Greater Manchester businesses’ ability to plan for the challenges ahead.
“Businesses will hope to see local and national leaders bury their differences and work in tandem to support both firms and individuals through the Winter.
“Business knows public health must come first, and recognises that getting a grip on rising infection rates is vital to maintain confidence and avoid further restrictions in the months ahead.
“Yet there is no escaping the impact of additional restrictions across Tiers Two and Three.
“Firms in hard-hit sectors like hospitality, leisure and tourism – and their supply chains – have seen only a limited recovery from the earlier lockdown, and fresh obstacles could prove fatal for some.
“Additional financial support must, therefore, be made available as a matter of urgency to protect people’s livelihoods.
“Clear communication and transparent evidence for new restrictions is essential. And firms will want to see criteria for a tangible pathway to the timely easing of these new restrictions.”
The region has been unanimous in its call for sufficient financial support from Whitehall for individuals and businesses affected by Tier Three measures, including the closure of bars and pubs not serving substantial meals, betting shops, casinos and adult gaming centres, and no households mixing indoors or in private gardens.
Greater Manchester civic leaders have been embroiled in talks with the Government for 10 days, although the region has been under special measures since July in a bid to reduce coronavirus infection rates.
The region’s hospitality sector has also resisted calls to close down pubs and bars, arguing that scientific evidence does not support this scale of measures.
Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time economy advisor, warned he will launch legal action if the majority of the region’s industry is forced to close its doors.
Both the Liverpool City Region (LCR) and Lancashire were placed into Tier Three last week, but they were awarded funding to help top up wages of workers placed on a new level of furlough which only pays two thirds of wages compared with 80% when the original national lockdown was imposed in March.
The two regions were each awarded £30m of extra funding.
However, Lancashire’s gyms have been able to remain open during the restrictive measures, while LCR’s have not.
This has resulted in calls from leaders of the LCR authorities for the Government to conduct an immediate review of its decision to close their gyms.
As part of the review, their letter to the Government says ministers need to provide the scientific evidence to support the region’s gym and leisure centres being closed, and if they are unable to do so, change the law so they can open again.
Earlier last week a Wirral gym, Body Tech Fitness in Moreton, received a £1,000 penalty after it defied Tier Three restrictions that came into force in the area on Wednesday. It has since received thousands of pounds in donations through a GoFundMe page.