Andy Burnham will hold more talks with No 10 on Monday after discussions on Sunday with senior officials were described as “constructive” by his team
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A deal to break the deadlock over the Government’s plans to impose tough Tier 3 restrictions on Greater Manchester was edging closer last night.
Andy Burnham will hold more talks with No 10 on Monday after discussions on Sunday with senior officials were described as “constructive” by his team.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is understood to have told the Prime Minister that he is willing to reopen his cheque book to “get a deal over the line” with the Labour mayor.
He is thought to be prepared to offer Greater Manchester leaders tens of millions of pounds to soften the financial blow of going into the highest level of lockdown.
But it falls short of the region’s demand for the new jobs furlough scheme, which offers 66% of wages, to be as generous as the 80% paid out earlier this year.
Regional leaders urged caution as no offer has yet been put on the table by No 10 to break the deadlock.
The Liverpool city region was given an extra £30m in cash to support local businesses hit by tough Tier 3 measures at the weekend, taking the total to £44m.
With almost double the population – 2.8 million people – Greater Manchester could expect substantially more to help the local economy.
Another 16,982 coronavirus cases were reported across the UK yesterday and a further 67 deaths.
Mr Burnham called on Westminster’s political leaders to help “break the impasse” by holding a Commons vote on support for the hardest-hit areas.
The Greater Manchester mayor wrote to Boris Johnson, Labour leader Keir Starmer and other party leaders warning that “most places” will end up in Tier 3 at some point.
“We recognise the uncertainty that this is causing and write to ask for your help in breaking the impasse and finding a fair resolution,” he said.
“This could be done by Parliament calling an urgent debate and vote this week to establish a cross-party consensus on what constitutes a fair financial framework for people in areas under Tier 3 restrictions.”
After confusion over whether talks between No 10 and the mayor would continue, Mr Burnham spoke with one of the Prime Minister’s top advisers on Sunday afternoon.
But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove heightened tensions when he accused Mr Burnham of political “posturing” and called for him to accept the measures.
He told Sky News: “I want them to put aside for a moment some of the political positioning that they’ve indulged in and I want them to work with us in order to ensure that we save lives and protect the NHS“Instead of press conferences and posturing, what we need is action to save people’s lives.”
But senior Tory backbencher Sir Graham Brady, MP for Altrincham and Sale West in Greater Manchester, told the BBC that the region’s Labour and Tory MPs were “pretty united” in opposing Tier 3.
Mr Burnham accused the Government of trying to “level down” Northern communities and denied he was “playing politics” with people’s lives as he had signed up to measures as far back as July.
He accused the PM of having engaged in an “exaggeration” of the severity of Covid-19 in the region.
“It’s a serious situation but I don’t think it was the situation that was described by the Prime Minister on Friday evening,” he told the BBC.
He warned he would still consider a legal challenge over financial support for the worst off.
“I would do anything to protect low-paid workers who I think are very close to the edge,” he said.
But Mr Burnham insisted his resistance wasn’t simply about financial support – adding that further lockdown would do “real damage” to people’s mental health.
“It’s not a case of ‘give us our money’, we’re just doing this for a big cheque for Greater Manchester,” he said.
“It’s about people and their health, lives and businesses. Do that in a negotiated way with us that doesn’t level down our communities.”
Business leaders also called for greater Treasury support for firms forced to close in Tier 3, as well as those in Tier 2 which face “dramatically” hampered finances.
The British Chambers of Commerce told the PM that any new lockdown restrictions must come with “truly commensurate” financial support or risk “catastrophic economic consequences”.
News – Hope for Manchester as Andy Burnham holds talks over proposed restrictions