Covid: Latest Greater Manchester talks end with no agreement

Covid: Latest Greater Manchester talks end with no agreement

A meeting between ministers and local leaders about Greater Manchester’s Covid restrictions has ended without agreement, the government has said.

This was “concerning” and ministers were “carefully considering” the next steps, a spokesman added.

Local leaders want better financial support before agreeing to a move to the top tier of rules, which would force some businesses to close.

On Monday the UK recorded a further 18,804 coronavirus cases and 80 deaths.

Greater Manchester’s Labour Mayor Andy Burnham has written to the prime minister saying leaders in north-west England were encouraged by conversations with officials on Monday morning – but were then surprised when an offer based around helping low-paid workers was not repeated by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick in the afternoon.

Leaders in the North West say they still want to work with the government to reach an agreement but that there has to be more support for the low-paid in areas where their employers are forced to close.

A source on the call with local leaders in Greater Manchester on Monday afternoon told the BBC that ministers broke up the meeting “abruptly” without agreement and said they would have to go back to Downing Street to discuss the next steps.

BBC political editor Laura Kuennsberg said there was “frustration and confusion” on the Greater Manchester side after a proposal for a “hardship fund” where local authorities could top up the wages of low-paid workers hit by tier three restrictions was discussed in the morning, but had “disappeared” in the afternoon.

Local leaders had gone into the call hopeful that an agreement could be reached around financial support for Greater Manchester, with the Treasury and local officials discussing the amount of cash that could be on offer, put at potentially £15m a month, she said. But Mr Jenrick did not repeat the offer of such a fund this afternoon.

Following the meeting a government spokesman said: “Disappointingly, we have still not been able to reach an agreement.

“This is particularly concerning against the backdrop of rising cases and hospitalisations in Greater Manchester.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that he might “need to intervene” if local leaders did not accept a move to tier three – the highest level of England’s coronavirus restrictions.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told the Commons that further discussions were planned with leaders in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, north-east England and Teesside about restrictions in these areas.

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